A 42-year-old man in Australia has been charged with more than 900 child-sex crimes after police say he used photos of Justin Bieber to lure young fans into sending him explicit pictures, along with various other offenses. NBC reports that Gordon Douglas Chalmers, a law lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology, spent more than a decade posing as the pop star online, convincing hundreds of minors that they were communicating with Bieber. Chalmers was charged this past November for using the internet to procure and groom children for sex and to access child pornography. After police raided his home and searched his social media accounts, Chalmers was hit with 931 charges in total, including producing child-exploitation material, the indecent treatment of children, and rape. Chalmers’ alleged victims number upwards of 150 children from all around the world, including 50 in the U.S. alone.
As noted by Detective Inspector Jon Rouse, part of the task force investigating Chalmers, the use of Bieber as bait should raise the alarm for all parents of his fans—or those of any celebrity. “The fact that so many children could believe that they were communicating with this particular celebrity highlights the need for a serious rethink about the way that we as a society educate our children about online safety,” Rouse said in a statement, calling the staggering, global extent of his crimes “frankly horrendous.” The New York Times cites a recent study from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime on how the wealth of personal information available on social media, the “relatively high education levels” and technological savvy of child abusers, and the naïveté of children when it comes to online safety have all contributed to a recent surge of child-related sex crimes orchestrated through the internet.
Add in the popularity of someone like Justin Bieber—who boasts a 92 million-strong Twitter following, and whose “accessibility” to his young fans is part of his appeal—and you have the makings of a perfect storm of vulnerability, easily exploited by online predators. Chalmers is currently in custody awaiting arraignment, but unfortunately, there are many more like him out there—and an endlessly renewable resource of kid-friendly stars that can be used the same way.