He Used a Snapchat Filter to Get This Pic, Launched a Sting

A California cop was arrested as a result of Ethan's actions
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2019 10:40 AM CDT

Snapchat's gender-swapping filter has been used to make a viral Evanescence video, alter famous works of art, and reveal Glenn Close's unexpected male celebrity look-alike since it launched in May. Now, a use that's a little more impactful: NBC Bay Area reports a local college student used it to create a female photo of himself, then used that image on a series of apps to ultimately expose a San Mateo cop who was allegedly willing to hook up with a minor. The story:

  • Ethan, who opted not to provide his last name during his sit-down interview with the station, was rattled after learning a female friend of his had been molested as a child. So he decided to attempt a one-man sting to take down a pedophile.
  • The 20-year-old took a photo using the filter, and the Washington Post explains the benefit to doing so versus just lifting a picture from the internet: It made the photo seem more authentic: "Creating a unique image with the app meant that photo couldn't easily be traced back to its rightful owner with a simple Google image search."

  • Ethan used the photo to open a Tinder account as "Esther." Then came a message around May 11, one that Ethan recalls as something like, "Are you down to have some fun tonight?" Tinder's Terms of Service stipulate that users be 18. Esther's profile gave her age as 19, so Ethan says he responded to the man's message via Kik, where he explained his age was 16. At first the man said the age "might be an issue," but the two continued to talk, ultimately moving to Snapchat, and screenshots show their messages allegedly grew explicit.
  • The Verge notes Ethan put his phone in airplane mode while taking the screenshots, as Snapchat would have otherwise alerted the man that a screenshot had been taken.
  • That same day, Ethan contacted Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers about the conversation. Per a release from the San Jose PD, "The tipster did research and determined the suspect was a police officer in the bay area." The suspect has now been named as Robert Davies. He was arrested June 6 on a felony charge of contacting a minor to commit a felony and is now on paid administrative leave.
  • "Whether or not the person is 16 is irrelevant," a member of the SJPD tells KTVU. "If the suspect believes it's a 16-year-old on the other end, the suspect should have terminated that conversation."
  • How Ethan sums things up: "I was just looking to get someone. He just happened to be a cop."
(More sting operations stories.)

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