RDS_190613 Snapchat filter-1560436446474
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What you need to know:

  • The new Snapchat 'gender swap' filter is not only popular, but recently, it helped catch a pedophile in the US.
  • A 20-year-old college student posed as a girl on a dating application to lure pedophiles.
  • The man arrested was a police officer. 

Dubai: Have you tried Snapchat’s new ‘gender swap’ filter? A college student in San Francisco used the filter to pose as an underage girl, in an effort to lure potential paedophiles on a dating application.

Did he succeed? Yes. Through this attempt, the 20-year-old managed to catch a police officer looking to meet with a minor girl.

According to a report by UK-based newspaper The Guardian, Ethan, whose last name was not revealed, set out on this effort after a friend confided in him that she was assaulted as a child.

What happened?

Ethan posed as ‘Esther’ on a prominent dating application, with the help of the filter. How does it work? Snapchat uses augmented realty to apply gendered facial features on a selfie or picture.

Ethan made a fake account for himself under the name Esther, 19, when he ‘matched’ with Robert Davies, a San Mateo, California, police officer.

As reported by The Guardian, Davies asked Esther “‘Are you down to have some fun tonight?’ on 11 May 2019.”

Ethan then told Davies that he was 16, and asked if that would be an issue. Reports state that the two discussed engaging in sexual activity after.

Ethan took screenshots of conversations he had with the officer, and sent them to a non-profit crime tip hotline called Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers.

The matter was investigated and Davies was arrested. The officer is now on paid leave from the police force and was charged with “communicating with a minor to commit a felony”.

According to a report by American television and radio service CBS News, Davies was off-duty in another county when the conversations took place. He is on “paid administrative leave”.

The article quoted San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer who said: “This alleged conduct, if true, is in no way a reflection of all that we stand for as a Department, and is an affront to the tenets of our department and our profession as a whole .... As San Mateo police officers, we have sworn an oath to serve and protect our communities. I can assure you that we remain steadfast to this commitment to serving our community with ‘Professionalism, Integrity, and Excellence.”

Ethan did a video-interview with US-based National Broadcast Company’s (NBC) Bay Area affiliate, where he said: “Through these messages, I would try and get these little bits of information about him so that it would be easier for the police to track him down....

“On Snapchat, when you screenshot something it notifies the other person. So I screenshotted all these [messages] on Air Plane Mode, in case he blocked me.... I was just looking to get someone, he just happened to be a cop.”

Online praise

The story was shared online and social media users praised Ethan for his actions, called him a “hero”.

Tweep @myrafalstad posted: “All he used was the gender swapping Snapchat filter and the name ‘Esther’. This kid is a ... hero.”

@KeyLow920 posted: “With great filters, comes great responsibility.”

Others were angry that the officer was not being fired but was being let off on administrative leave.

@ManzuuT tweeted: “The sad part is the cop will not lose his job, let alone go to jail....”

Tweep @font_matias said: “But why is the cop on PAID leave?”