As technology enables us to become more connected, it also presents potential hazards in the supposed anonymity of its communications. Sextortion is one such issue. It can take many forms, but usually involves one party threatening to reveal potentially embarrassing images or videos to the victim’s friends and family if they don’t receive money or more explicit content.
Victims of sextortion are not at fault. The perpetrators of sextortion schemes will attempt to make the victim feel isolated and pressure them into feeling guilty for their actions in order to convince them to pay. There are many resources and services available to help someone dealing with this situation. Becoming isolated will only make the situation worse.
There are several means of obtaining the naked images or videos used for blackmail. One common tactic is luring someone into sharing access to their webcam by posing as sexually interested partner. Once the compromising footage has been obtained, the victim receives a threat that it will be sent to their friends and family if some conditions are not met.
The images and videos can also be stolen from using malware that illicitly accesses the camera and microphone of an infected computer. Although, this approach is less common. Unfortunately, the practice of sextortion is very real and affects many people. However, there are several things you can do to protect yourself against it.
By the Numbers
The Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC) at the University of New Hampshire, partnered with Thorn to conduct a research study of 1,631 victims of sextortion – ages 18-25. You can see the full report and infographic summary on the Thorn website.
We’ve posted their infographic here for your reference.Thorn_Sextortion_Infographic
If you’re engaging in online sexual activity, protect your anonymity by not showing your face or providing any other identifying information. It’s also important to separate your social media channels that are linked to your identity from those that you use for activity you wouldn’t want your friends and family to see.
If you’re being threatened, the authorities advise that you never pay the person, send more images, or comply in any way. If you do, it will likely only encourage more threats in the future. Sextortion is illegal and you can contact the police. Many people have been successfully prosecuted in Canada and abroad for these offenses.
It’s also be a good idea to record any information associated with the person who is threatening you before deleting them from your social media accounts. In addition, you may also want to temporarily disable those accounts to prevent the person from trying to contact you again. The information can help the authorities identify the person should you wish to pursue criminal charges.
- ‘An Inside Look at Sextortion’ video interviews – victim stories | CNNMoney (2016)
- ‘Facts About Sextortion’ statistics and victim statements | Thorn (2016)
- ‘Sextortion’ teen victim from B.C. pondered suicide | CBC News (2016)
- Sextortion: Rise in blackmail-related suicides | Independent (2016)
- Sextortion in the U.S. Military | Military Times
- Is that legal? Cyber Misogyny | Westcoast Leaf
- Non-Consensual Distribution of an Intimate Image | Cybertip.ca
- Know the law about sharing intimate pics online | Justice Canada
- Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act | Government of Canada
- Online Harassment | University of Toronto
- UBC Police on Harassment | UBC Office of Counsel
- UBC Bullying and Harassment Resources | UBC Human Resources
The Digital Tattoo Project encourages critical discussion on topics surrounding digital citizenship and online identity. There are no correct answers and every person will view these topics from a different perspective. Be sure to complete the previous sections before answering the questions.