Sextortion is a form of online blackmail and is defined by the Human Rights Brief website as “the act of threatening to expose a nude or sexually explicit image in order to get a person to do something such as share more nude or sexually explicit images, pay someone money, or perform sexual acts.”
According to the FBI website: “The victims of this type of crime—commonly referred to as sextortion—are almost always vulnerable teenagers who are tricked online and then find themselves in a nightmare situation: They are afraid to tell their parents or friends what is happening, and believe complying with their abuser is the only solution.”
Sextortion can come in many forms. Catfishing, “where predators lure unsuspecting victims into online relationships and coerce them into sharing nude photos or videos,”1 which can then be used to blackmail the victim.
Deep Fake Pornography, when “women’s faces are inserted into explicit pornographic videos” without their consent,2 can be used for sextortion.
Sextortion can also be an Image-Based Sexual Abuse: “(IBSA) involves three key behaviors: the non-consensual taking or creation of nude or sexual images; the non-consensual sharing or distribution of nude or sexual images; and threats made to distribute nude or sexual images.”3 Some states have laws against sextortion.
The sourced articles below should provide you more information on sextortion.
- Bipartisan Task Force To End Sexual Violence Holds Roundtable On Cyber Harassment And Abuse
“Today, [4/3/2019] Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH), David Joyce (R-OH), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and John Katko (R-NY), the co-chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, held a Task Force roundtable on cyber harassment and abuse. The Bipartisan Task Force is raising awareness about the prevalence of cyber harassment and abuse. According to the Pew Research Center, 20% of adult internet users have been affected by cyberstalking, persistent harassing emails, or other unwanted online contact. Additionally, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative reports that 1 out of every 8 social media users have been targets of nonconsensual pornography. Online abuse like ‘sextortion,’ ‘swatting,’ and ‘doxing’ are also common and have long-term ramifications on those who experience it.”
Press Release, kuster.house.gov, 4/3/2019
- Jeff Bezos Aside, Sextortion Is Way Underreported
“In a study published last fall, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor of criminal justice Justin Patchin surveyed a nationally representative sample of teenagers in the US and found that 5 percent admitted to being the victim of sextortion, and 3 percent said they’d committed it themselves. A 2018 Pew survey of teen cyberbullying found that 7 percent report having had images of them shared without their consent. The FBI in 2016 wrote that sextortion of minors ‘has become a major threat in recent years.'”
Emily Dreyfuss, wired.com, 2/8/2019
- What is Sextortion and Why Should We Be Concerned?
“Once again, this is not to suggest that parents are to blame. I have experience working with sexual offenders and I can say with the utmost confidence that child sexual predators are among the most manipulative of all criminal types. They know exactly how to drive a wedge between the targeted victims and the parents to gain the victim’s trust. They are truly master manipulators who embrace trickery and deception as their modus operandi.”
Michael Pittaro, PhD, psychologytoday.com, 1/8/2019
- Sextortion Among Adolescents: Results From A National Survey Of U.S. Youth
“Sextortion is the threatened dissemination of explicit, intimate, or embarrassing images of a sexual nature without consent, usually for the purpose of procuring additional images, sexual acts, money, or something else. Despite increased public interest in this behavior, it has yet to be empirically examined among adolescents. The current study fills this gap by exploring the prevalence of sextortion behaviors among a nationally representative sample of 5,568 U.S. middle and high school students. Approximately 5% of students reported that they had been the victim of sextortion, while about 3% admitted to threatening others who had shared an image with them in confidence. Males and nonheterosexual youth were more likely to be targeted, and males were more likely to target others. Moreover, youth who threatened others with sextortion were more likely to have been victims themselves. Implications for future research, as well as the preventive role that youth-serving professionals can play, are discussed.”
Cyberbullying Research Center, cyberbullying.org, 10/16/2018
- What It’s Like To Experience Sextortion As A Teen
“On October 1,  Maryland joined a handful of states to criminalize sextortion, or the act of someone using another person’s sexually explicit images to blackmail them. … According to a 2016 report by the Department of Justice, sextortion is ‘by far the most significantly growing threat to children.’ Until recently, it was unclear how prevalent this kind of abuse was among minors or how they dealt with it; previous research was done retrospectively with adults.”
Kimberly Lawson, broadly.vice.com, 10/11/2018
- Online Predator Used Familiar Tactics to Victimize 12-Year-Old Girl
“The victims of this type of crime—commonly referred to as sextortion—are almost always vulnerable teenagers who are tricked online and then find themselves in a nightmare situation: They are afraid to tell their parents or friends what is happening, and believe complying with their abuser is the only solution.
‘The predators typically pretend to be teenagers online and lurk on popular social media sites,’ said Special Agent Kevin Orkin, who investigated the case from the FBI’s Atlanta Division. ‘The victims—striving for attention, maybe having issues with their parents, as teens often do—are easily manipulated.’
The predators establish an online relationship, flirt, and in time convince the victims to send them a sexually provocative picture. ‘That initial image might not be too incriminating by today’s standards,’ Orkin said, but the predators use the image to blackmail the victims. If they don’t send more explicit material, the victims are told, the image will be shared online with their friends and family to humiliate them.”
FBI News, fbi.gov, 1/26/2018
- What Began As A Casual Flirtation On Twitter Almost Cost This Mom Custody Of Her Son
“‘Both men and women are being targeted on social media sites including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more by predators who attempt to assert dominance and humiliate their victims,’ [Terry] Evans [president of Cybersleuth Investigations in Buffalo, New York] says. ‘These *catfish* are motivated by sex, money, or simply the thrill of exploiting a victim to satisfy their own narcissistic desires.’
One prevalent form of exploitation is ‘sextortion,’ which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) describes as a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute a person’s private and sensitive material if they don’t provide images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money. Sextortion can be initiated by hacking into the victim’s computer or phone, or by ‘catfishing’: adopting a fake persona and luring someone into a fake relationship on social media.”
Linda Childers, womansday.com, 10/20/2017
- The Rising Threat of Sextortion — and What to Do If It Happens to You
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) classifies sextortion as a form of online blackmail where explicit images are used to extort additional photos, sexual favors, and sometimes money from victims. It can involve hacking into a victim’s computer or ‘catfishing’ — where predators lure unsuspecting victims into online relationships and coerce them into sharing nude photos or videos. A 2016 report from the Brookings Institute found that sextortion is on the rise, and noted that isn’t ‘a matter of playful consensual sexting,’ but rather ‘a form of sexual exploitation, coercion and violence.'”
Linda Childers, allure.com, 10/16/2017
1. allure.com, 10/16/2017
2. washingtonpost.com, 12/31/2018
3. sciencedirect.com, 3/2019