Have you ever seen or heard about explicit photos and/or video recordings leaked online? What could be the cause of this notorious crime?
Jane, a senior six vacationist, extremely did her parents proud of yielding excellent results in her A’ Level final examinations. In reward for her extraordinary efforts, the parents purchased her a high-end smartphone as they had earlier promised. No sooner had Jane acquired the smartphone than she began opening up social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram among others. She progressively accepted a number of friend requests on Facebook, of which many were from people she met for the first time online. As time went by, she routinely posted updates to everyone and soon shared some of her private photos with a ‘friend’ she amazingly fell in love with. On one fateful morning, Jane startlingly read a message daring to expose her nudes on failure to pay a huge sum of money. What went wrong?
Sextortion is a form of blackmail in which an explicit video or image is used to extort sexual favors or money from the victim, along with threats of exposure of the explicit material on failure to produce more of the content. The criminals mostly target young people who don’t seem to have an on-guard mentality when it comes to strangers contacting them through the Internet, ” said Shirley at FBI Sextortion Awareness on September 3, 2019. “By and large, teens feel less inhibited about sharing online.” That sense of trust and comfort allows a criminal to coerce a young person into creating and sending an image, which begins the cycle of victimization.
The predator reaches out to a young person over a game, app, or social media account through deception, money, flattery, gifts, or threats to share a nude image of themselves with others, thus manipulating the victim to produce explicit content against their will. More often, however, the crime starts when young people believe they are communicating with someone in their age bracket that is interested in a relationship or someone having a very valuable offer.
Whereas sextortion still goes on, it is extremely criminal and illegal for a person to ask for sexual favors or money from another person, much so a minor, on the basis of blackmail. By way of preying on human emotion, the criminal may deceptively claim they already have a picture or video of you that they will share if you don’t send more content. The situation can feel really confusing, and the criminals count on the victim feeling too unsure, scared, or embarrassed to tell anyone.
How can you protect yourself and your friends?
- If you’re not feeling ready to inform the Police, see another trusted adult. At first, it may seem impossible, but there are people who can truly bail you out of this dilemma.
- Be discreet with what you share online. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, the perpetrator may be able to gather lots of information about you.
- Do not friend strangers. Block or ignore messages from unknown people you encounter for the first time online.
- Be suspicious of people you meet on one game or app and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.
- Beware that what goes online, may stay online. You may have to be cautious of the content you create online, be it a text message, photo, or video.
- Willingly seek for help in moments of crisis. Promptly report the behavior to Police, a site administrator, or a trusted adult. Early intervention will prevent far-reaching consequences such as low self-esteem, torment or suicide.
- Create awareness on safe online practices among peers, or through parent-child guidance.