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Tinder Experiment leads to arrests, jail

AAP logoAAP 22/08/2016 Melissa Meehan

Two men who used the dating app Tinder to groom underage girls have been jailed after they were exposed by a group of Melbourne university students.

The creators of the "Tinder Experiment" set up a fake profile of a 15-year-old girl in a bid to expose pedophiles grooming girls online.

They then secretly filmed conversations and face-to-face meetings with the men before shaming them online.

Those videos were removed and their website shut down by police, but a specialised task force focused on internet-based child exploitation offences was able to use the information from the "experiment".

Detective Senior Constable Emma O'Rourke, from the Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team, says the university students were able to give police half a dozen names of people who had made contact with their "fake teenager".

"Not all of these people came to meet them, some did and as a result of that we approached them covertly to engage with us," Det Sen Const O'Rourke told AAP on Monday.

"And as a result two of the males have been charged and convicted."

Nicolaos Katsamas was one of those men and was sentenced last month to two-and-a-half years' jail.

He will be released on a $5000 good behaviour bond after he serves six months.

He came to police attention in December 2014 after making contact with the "teenager" created by the uni students.

The County Court of Victoria heard that Katsamas sent a series of sexual messages to a covert officer acting as a 13-year-old and tried to arrange rendezvous at hotels before he was arrested by police.

Another man Tobias Kilsby was also jailed for two years after sending sexually explicit messages and arranging to meet a 13-year-old girl - who was actually a police officer.

Prosecutors tendered video from the Tinder Experiment in court in support of their case and Kilsby pleaded guilty.

"The Tinder Experiment did what police were already doing - just on a different platform," Det Sen Const Tas Gagatsakis told AAP.

"We operate on all platforms, Tinder is usually for users 18 and over, but when these things come to light we are very interested in trying to find out what is going on."

The JACET team, comprised of both Victorian and Australian Federal Police, probably see the worst, darkest and seediest side of the online world - but they do it so that Victorian children don't have to.

They portray themselves as children and are engaged in sexualised conversations by creeps wanting to take advantage.

Officers also work to identify children depicted in pornographic images and other child exploitation material - often working with agencies across the world to find them.

The Tinder Experiment and charges relating to it may be over, but for JACET officers there is always another platform creeps are using to take advantage of children.

WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN FROM CYBER CREEPS:

* Monitor your children's access to the internet and social media

* Know their passwords and read conversations they have online

* Make sure they don't "friend" someone they have never met. Even if it is a "friend" of a friend.

* It's not just girls that are targeted, also educate your boys about the risks

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD IS A VICTIM:

* Report it to your local police station

* DO NOT block the user. Evidence has been lost this way before.

* Take the device to police.

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