Children are “sextorted” by online predators who edit images of them on sexually-oriented videos or photos and threaten to post them on the Internet, warns the Canadian Center for Child Protection.
Stephen Sauer, director of Cybertip.ca, which is run by the Canadian Center, called it a “new progression” in online youth extortion and says the organization wants to “get ahead of a trend” since she received less than 10 reports.
“Now we are looking at where they are creating images of these kids with very minimal and pretty benign images to begin with, and which are being created in material of sexual exploitation or explicit,” he said during from an interview on Wednesday.
In a press release, the Winnipeg-based Canadian Center, a national charity “dedicated to the personal safety of all children,” says parents should know it has received reports of children being sextorted on various platforms. These platforms include Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Google Hangouts, Skype, Line App, and more anonymized spaces like Omegle, which is a video chat with strangers.
The Canadian Center said in one case, a person responded to an anonymous video call from a scammer who recorded it and then edited the victim’s face in a video to make it look like they were. engaged in a sexual act.
The offender demanded payment, otherwise he was sharing it on social media.
Sometimes the scammer can follow the victim’s friends and family, in order to show that they really want to follow through on their threats, the Canadian Center said.
Deepfake technology has advanced in recent years to the point that fake videos of people, made using machine learning or artificial intelligence, look like real life. Many of them are pornographic in nature.
Sauer said the sextortion could be carried out by “organized groups” of people interested in scamming adults and children with money, or by a sexual predator interested in obtaining images of children.
“We are concerned about this and we want to raise awareness about it,” he said.
“The technology is getting better and better,” he added, “we might see this happening in more and more young people if this technology becomes more and more available.”
During the pandemic, as children were stuck at home with more free time to use social media, scammers took note, Sauer said.
“(The children are) looking for social opportunities,” he said. “A long time ago in March and April of last year, we were seeing posts from the offending community on places like the dark web where they were talking about their ability to reach more young people.”
Sauer specifically called up internet video chat services like Omegle and Chatroulette, where anyone can connect with a click and a webcam, but which “also provide an avenue for that,” he said.
“It’s quite easy to get in touch with young people through these services and offend them,” he said.
“You are anonymous, you don’t know who they are and they don’t know who you are.”
As governments increasingly consider regulating the online world, Sauer said they should consider this space and how young people access social media, but he also said platforms need to protect children.
“Young people must not cross paths with adults in an unregulated space,” he said.