Prosecutors, Child Advocates Cite Rise In “Sextortion” Cases


Federal prosecutors and child safety advocates say they're seeing an rise in cases of online sexual extortion, the Associated Press reports. They say pornographers threaten teens who text nude cell phone photos of themselves by saying their behavior will be exposed to friends and family unless they pose for more explicit porn, creating a vicious cycle of exploitation.

A federal affidavit uses a special term for the crime: “sextortion.” No one tracks the numbers of cases involving online sexual extortion, but prosecutors and others point toward several recent high-profile examples victimizing teens in a dozen states. In Alabama, Jonathan Vance, 24, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for sending threatening e-mails on Facebook and MySpace extorting nude photos from more than 50 young women in Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Missouri. Law enforcement officials and advocates caution teens that privacy is nonexistent on the Internet; once indiscretions appear online, they are virtually impossible to take back. A nude photo sent to a boyfriend's cell phone can easily be circulated through cell phone contacts and wind up on websites. Once there, it's available for anyone who wants to trace it back to the person who made it. “Kids are putting their head in the lion's mouth every time they do this,” said Parry Aftab, an attorney and online child safety advocate.

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