The IWF (International Watch Foundation) has just released their 2022 annual report #BehindThe Screens which looks at what is happening the in world with regard to the extent and scale of online sexual abuse material. What they are seeing is the massive rise in ‘self-generated imagery’, and this is now the most common form of online child sexual abuse, they see. The rise has been most evident in 7 – 10 year olds. The IWF states that ‘Whilst the term ‘self-generated’ indicates that the child is creating the content themselves, it is vital to remember that children are being groomed online and instructed to engage in this behaviour. No blame should be placed on the child.’. Children sending these images are then being sextorted!
What is sextortion?
Sexually coerced extortion.
Sextortion is a form of digital blackmail where someone threatens to release explicit or sensitive content unless the victim pays a ransom. The term "sextortion" arises from the fact that the content often involves sexually explicit images or videos.
How does sextortion work?
Sextortionists typically use social engineering tactics to manipulate their victims into sharing sensitive information or engaging in sexual behaviour on camera. They may create fake profiles on social media or dating apps, pretending to be someone the victim trusts in order to gain access to their personal information.
Once the sextortionist has obtained the explicit content, they may threaten to release it to the victim's family or friends if they don't pay a ransom. This can be an incredibly distressing situation for the victim, who may feel ashamed or embarrassed of their actions.
What can you do if you feel you are a victim of sextortion?
If you do fall victim to sextortion, it's important to remember that you're not alone. Don’t hesitate to seek support and contact NSPCC, IWF or ChildLine. Remember you can talk to a parent or someone you trust.
Make sure you are cautious about who you share sensitive information with online. Never share personal information like your home address or financial details.
Try and do the following things:
· Don’t pay!
· Take screen shots of all your communication.
· Suspend and deactivate your social media account (but don’t delete it) and use the online reporting processes to report the matter (this will mean the data is preserved and evidence can be collected).
· Keep an eye on all the accounts which you might have linked in case the criminals try to contact you via one of these as well.
· Make a note of any details provided by the offenders.
· Don’t delete any correspondence.
The IWF and NSPCC have developed the world-first Report Remove tool which was launched in June 2021, where young people can remove sexual images or videos of themselves online.
How it works is that the IWF assess the content that has been reported and they take action if it meets the illegal threshold. If it does, then the content is given a unique digital fingerprint or hash. This hash is shared with internet companies which will help prevent this image being uploaded or redistributed.
This tool is completely child centered and children can do this entirely online without having to tell anyone, if they don’t want to. They can make a report at any time and Childline will always be there for further information and support if the young person needs it.
The IWF report found that 16 – 17 year old boys had used the report remove tool more times than any other age group and a quarter (24% or 18 reports) of the 74 actionable reports were from boys because of sexually coerced extortion. Boys are typically lured into what they believe are mutual exchanges of sexual images where they mistakenly believe they are sharing images with a peer or older person.
Further help and support:
Thinkuknow – support for young people and parents
IWF – is a technology-led, child protection organisation
Marie Collins Foundation – support for children and young people
Crimestoppers (Fearless) – Fearless enables young people to pass on information about crime 100% anonymously
Childline – 0800 11 11