A report published today by Europol reveals children as
young as seven are falling victim to so-called ‘sextortion’ or ‘webcam
Europol says the online coercion and extortion of
children – a form of digital blackmail where sexual information or images are
used to extort sexual material, sexual favours or money - has rocketed in the
past years, but remains largely underreported.
In most cases, offenders have two main motivations:
• A sexual
interest in children, where the objective of the extortive exchange is the
procurement of sexual material (photos and/or videos depicting the child) or a
sexual encounter offline;
economic interest, where the objective is to gain financially from the
Europol’s report reveals that female child victims are
being blackmailed more significantly for sexually explicit material (84%)
compared to their male counterparts (53%).
The latter are more so targeted for financial gain (32%
compared with 2% for female child victims), a relatively new trend in the field
of online child sexual abuse. Another such trend is the perpetrator’s demand
for the targeted child to include other children, such as siblings or peers, in
the images/videos. In such cases, even
those children who use safe practices in the online environment or younger
children who may not use the Internet yet can be targeted this way.
The personal and psychological toll on the victims of
this crime is not to be underestimated: a number of children have reportedly
committed suicide in the last few years after falling victim to this crime.
Many acts of online coercion and extortion of children
go unreported as a result of the embarrassment regarding the material provided
to the perpetrator or lack of awareness by victims that they have been subject
to a criminal offence.
The European law enforcement community has today joined
forces with partners from the private sector to launch a campaign, #Say NO”,
supported by Europol.
The campaign includes a short film, available in all EU
languages, which helps people to recognise a potential sextortion approach,
provides online advice and highlights the importance of reporting the crime to
the competent national authorities.
Steven Wilson, Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime
Centre, said: “Children are increasingly using the online environment to
communicate and form relationships and this should be considered as a natural
part of their development. However it is our collective responsibility to
educate them on the threats they may experience and also protect them to make
the online environment as safe as possible. Where something untoward happens
online we should provide clear and effective reporting and support mechanisms
so they understand where to turn to for assistance.”
Europol’s message to those who are targeted is ‘don’t
pay and don’t feel embarrassed to report it to the police’. If someone
threatens you with sharing sexual photos or videos of you unless you send them
more or pay them money, follow these steps:
1. Don’t share
more, don’t pay anything.
2. Look for
help. You are not alone.
evidence. Don’t delete anything.
4. Stop the
communication. Block the person.
5. Report it
to the police.
Det Supt Jen Helm, head of the Public Protection Command at Northamptonshire Police, said: "This report highlights some of the issues we are starting to see in Northants. The two stories accurately reflect the experiences some of our young people in our county. Some may still be suffering in silence.
Undoubtedly others are at risk unless we get this message out. Please join me in sharing and supporting this really useful and timely campaign and help protect young people from online coercion and extortion.”
For more details visit https://www.europol.europa.eu/sayno.