The Winnipeg-based Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) says young boys are being “aggressively” targeted on social media in acts of sextortion.
Lianna McDonald, executive director for C3P, says in July alone, Cybertrip.ca opened case files for 322 victims of sextortion, where 92 percent involved boys or young men.
C3P says Instagram and Snapchat are the social networks most being used to target victims.
“This analysis makes it clear that offenders seek out children where they are easily found: on the social platforms they engage with for hours each day,” said McDonald.
“This is an ongoing problem that is getting worse, and so it really does beg the question about what are these companies doing to keep children safe? It is incredulous that social media platforms allow total adult strangers to directly reach out and target our children without any consequence.”
Of those cases reported last month, 63 percent of victims didn’t report the incident to a trusted person.
The analysis also revealed children are duped into believing they are interacting with someone their age, often in the context of a sexualized conversation. If the victim sends intimate images of themselves, the offender behind the account will immediately make aggressive demands for money, while threatening to release the images to their family and friends.
The review also showed an emerging tactic where the victim is sent nude images of children from the person behind the fake account. The offender will then threaten to report the victim to police, claiming they are in possession of child sexual abuse material. Demands for money immediately follow.
“This continues to reinforce the need for the public to ask questions and for the government to step in and impose regulatory guardrails for the technology industry,” added McDonald.