"Cappers": The Horrifying Creeps Who Trick Underage Girls to Strip Online
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A month ago … he recorded me for the first time and then I was stupid enough to keep doing it because he said he was never gonna do it again and that he was stupid and that he didn’t want to ruin our relationship. And he just used me and he stopped calling me … he just wanted me out of his life because … I gave him what he wanted.
She later adds, “I guess I was just, like, liking the attention he was giving me.”
As for the motivation of the cappers, in his dissertation, “Little Brother Is Watching and Recording You,” Joshua Wayne Roberts quotes one anonymous capper’s explanation:
For the simple thrill of it. It’s live, unprofessional and real. These are real girls broadcasting live from their bedrooms, and the fact is that if no one records it then it’s almost as if it never happened because it will never be seen again. The obvious reason why people cap these shows is so that they can watch it again to “Fap” [masturbate] to later on or so that they can show their friends what they missed out [on]. It becomes an addiction for a lot of people to get as many caps as they can and create collections and grade others’ and build reputations; in other words, the more they cap, the more it starts to become a game.
And there are message boards devoted to swapping tips on how to win the game. One trick is for the capper to present a video loop of a fit young guy typing away at the computer as himself, thereby piquing the girl’s interest. As one capper writes on a message board, “I’ve been capping for a bit now, and I would say wins are a matter of three steps: 1. Practice 2. Patience and 3. Loops.” He goes on to say, “Practice will also get you better at being able to not get busted so quickly because some girls are sluts and some girls are prudent sluts; it’s all in the game.” There are extensive archives of loops that cappers can use to convince girls that they are Prince Charming (or at least Prince Hottie).
On these same message boards, “wins” (i.e., photos and videos of girls disrobing) are shared, including sought-after ones of underage girls — and that brings me back to my call to the FBI. There was no way for me to tell whether I was looking at photos of underage girls (not to mention whether the screen caps were taken with or without their knowledge). But Charles Gillingham, deputy district attorney with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, tells me, “Every image that’s on the Internet has a letter and number value, and that’s a value that stays with that image regardless of where it goes [online].” With the digital fingerprint, law enforcement can check reported images against a vast catalog of verified child porn images, including cases where the victim’s identity and age has been verified. But “that known-image database is signifcantly smaller than the world of images that are out there,” he says. For those in which the “capped” person is unidentifiable, the issue of whether they are a minor is “ultimately a question for the jury to decide.”
But even when a screen-capped minor has been positively identified, the image isn’t necessarily child pornography, at least not in the law’s eyes. It all depends on the state. “In some statutes, the chest does not count,” Gillingham says. “In some jurisdictions it has to be the genitalia.” In California, where Gillingham practices, an image of a 13-year-old flashing her breasts might not be considered child porn — even if it is widely circulated and drooled over on capper message boards. “That being said, there are other statutes that we could use to address it, ” he says, like the state law punishing “unnatural sexual interest in children.” And, of course, extortion is illegal.