Now abusers blackmailing children online into sex acts
Thousands of children have been targeted by internet blackmailers, with many forced to use webcams to film themselves performing sex acts or self-mutilation because they fear having their naked pictures sent to their families, child protection experts have warned.
The blackmailing of children has emerged as a fast-growing new method employed by abusers who operate behind fake profiles on social networks to take advantage of youthful sexual experimentation and snare their victims, driving some to self-harm and even suicide.
A single police operation discovered that one small ring of paedophiles overseas had pressured more than 300 children, including 96 in Britain, into performing live sex acts online. Some of the youngsters attempted suicide when they were threatened with having their behaviour made public, according to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop). Police analysis of computers reveals that, before befriending a child they intend to groom, perpetrators often research the victim's location, school and other details, so as to present a convincing picture of themselves as a local young adolescent. Children as young as eight are being targeted.
Such grooming often starts on open chat forums before moving to private areas where the talk swiftly becomes more explicit. The threats usually start after children have been tricked into posting compromising pictures of themselves. In one online conversation retrieved by the authorities, an abuser tricked his victim and then became aggressive, saying he did not care if the boy killed himself. "I totally own you," he said.
The practice appears to be a new, more menacing development in the world of cyber-bullying. One abuser collected images of his blackmailed victims in a folder named "slaves".
A British teenager is one of seven young people who have killed themselves over blackmail. Daniel Perry (17), of Dunfermline, Fife, leapt from the Forth Road Bridge in July. He had been having online chats with a person he believed to be an American girl of his own age, but was then told his conversations would be played to his family and friends unless he paid money into a bank account. Police are still investigating Daniel's death.
One group of men, aged 20 to 44, is due to go on trial within the next month in an unspecified non-European country that authorities declined to name for legal reasons. (© Independent News Service)