The ‘Tinder Experiment’ that started in Melbourne and exposed paedophiles online

Original article published Here

It started as an experiment, a pretty messed up one, but an experiment nonetheless.

“Blake”, as he wants to be called, was using Tinder for himself and kept seeing underage girls on the dating app.

“Imogen”, who said she was 15 in her Tinder profile, quickly matched with hundreds of men.

Tinder experiment

Photo: The Tinder Experiment/YouTube
“I didn’t think they realised the position they were putting themselves in,” he said.

The 26-year-old watched the American reality series To Catch a Predator (actors posing as girls to trap paedophiles) and he thought he could do a Melbourne version with his friends.

Their first video, in which Blake’s friend pretends to be a 15-year-old girl called Imogen who arranges meetings with significantly older men (one was 43) who are secretly filmed, got over a million hits and created a media storm.

It also caught the attention of police.

Blake didn’t bother hiding his IP address on the group’s YouTube page and one day, while he was out, police came knocking on his door.

imogen meeting two men

Their first video, which showed ‘Imogen’ meeting with two men, got more than one million hits.
Their first video, which showed ‘Imogen’ meeting with two men, got more than one million hits.
“My mum answered and she was very upset and thought I was in trouble,” he said.

“I called the detective and he said ‘You’re not in trouble, we just need to talk’.”

The Tinder Experiment secretly filmed Melbourne men meeting an ‘underage’ girl.

imogen 2nd

His parents knew he was working on videos that he told them were ‘definitely’ going to go viral, but they didn’t know exactly what they were up to until the media reports.

“At first they weren’t very happy because the way the reports were at first (questioning the legality of the practice) and they thought our family was in danger. Over time, they chilled out and now they’re pretty proud.” he said.

imogen 3

‘Blake’, posing as Imogen’s brother, would then confront the man.

Police, Blake said, understood his intention, but told him he didn’t understand the danger he was putting himself in.

“They said ‘You don’t know what’s going to happen, someone could pull a knife or a gun – and it’s kind of interfering with the working we’re doing’,” he said.

imogen tinder

A fake Tinder profile created by the students to catch men grooming underage girls.

They had already had one hairy meeting in a park where a man told Imogen he was connected to bikies, so the group didn’t need to be told twice.

Blake gave a statement to police, but he never thought it would lead where it did.

“We didn’t think we would get any sort of result out of it, we did the whole thing for awareness,” he said.

“It was vindicating.”

Two men who Blake and his friends exposed online were jailed, with police from the joint anti-child exploitation team using their information to covertly engage with the men.

Nicolaos Katsamas, 51, was given a two-and-a-half year sentence last month, with a six-month non-parole period.

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

Tobias Kilsby, 44, was also sentenced to two years in jail after sending sexually explicit messages and arranging to meet the ‘teen’.

Prosecutors tendered video from the Tinder Experiment in court in support of the case.

“The Tinder Experiment did what police were already doing – just on a different platform,” Detective Senior Constable Tas Gagatsakis said.

Blake, who wants his identity protected for safety reasons, said the court results signalled the end of the Tinder Experiment.

“I wouldn’t recommend doing what we did, it was obviously dangerous, but I’d definitely urge people to report this sort of stuff to police,” he said.

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Jesse Altham

Hey! My name is Jesse and I’m a 23 year old from Fremantle, WA. I’m finishing up my Diploma of Youth Work with North Metro TAFE, completing my last practical placement here with the YEP crew. I am extremely passionate about politics, advocacy and education and I’m so fortunate to be working with YEP in the space of peer education.

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