Teen Boys at Risk in Webcam Extortion Cases

Head up parents! There are some new crime stats out of the UK that may make you reconsider what kind of risks your teens may encounter online.

The UK National Crime Agency reported this week that cases of webcam extortion for financial gain are up over 100% this year, with 864 reported cases vs. 385 last year, and the year isn’t over yet. We haven’t seen similar statistics reported here in the U.S.

The real eye opener from these numbers (for us) was that in 95% of the reported incidents, the victim was male. The largest population of victims was men aged 21 – 30, but boys between 11 and 20 form a “substantial portion.”

We, and parents we talk to, have assumed that females are more at risk of this type of threat, but these UK statistics tell another story.

The agency implies that normal boy-girl online relationships are not what are driving these numbers. social-media-sleepRather:

  • Professional criminals are posing as available females online in an attempt to lure young men into a relationship
  • Bad actors are posing as gay men online, again attempting to establish an intimate online relationship with a gay man

In either case, the victim is enticed to send a nude video to the perpetrator. The perp then uses the threat of posting that video publicly online, or sending it to the victim’s relatives, friends or even his boss, as a means to extort money.

This isn’t just a UK phenomenon. A Minnesota man was sentenced to 38 years in prison this month after pleading guilty to sextortion in 155 cases involving teenage boys over a four-year period. In some cases he posed as a young girl; in others he claimed to represent a modeling agency.

A spokesperson from the UK’s National Crime Agency describes this as a large global “business” where the bad guys are often overseas and do not feel like they at risk of being caught.

Risk of being exposed or potential financial loss isn’t the only downside here. The UK reports that webcam extortion has led to 4 victims committing suicide.

We didn’t think that catfishing would become a big business, but perhaps it has. The one and only defense against this is to make sure you know, and your teens know – without a shadow of a doubt – who you are talking to online before committing any intimate acts.

 

 

If your teen or tween is active online and you are having trouble keeping up, we can help. We respect your kids’ privacy and give you the tools you need to be a better digital parent. The ThirdParent initial audit is now FREE (previously a $49 value). Ongoing monitoring is $15 per month and you can cancel at any time. Click here to sign up today!

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What To Do If You’re a Revenge Porn Victim

It’s impossible to argue with the idea that revenge porn is on the rise.

Revenge Porn – the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress

Most people these days have a smartphone, and sharing images, whether on social media or person-to-person, is a very popular activity. If you’ve ever taken a risqué selfie or video, even if you haven’t shared it with anyone, you are at risk of becoming a victim as well. Cell phones and/or cloud storage can be compromised, as was the case with the widespread celebrity hacking case in August of 2014. Romantic partners can turn on you after a breakup.

If you have your intimate photos or video posted online against your wishes (or without your knowledge until now), we are happy to point out a great new resource for revenge porn victims. The folks at nonprofit Without My Consent, a site with a host of resources for situations such as yours, have created a new guide titled the Something Can Be Done Guide. It is the best such document that we’ve seen and covers everything you need to know including your options and what not to neglect doing.

Revenge Porn help

Sections in the guide include:

  • Conversations to have with your lawyer
  • How do I get help with what I’m feeling?
  • Evidence preservation
  • Takedown help
  • Copyright registration

Revenge Porn statsIf you are looking for help and don’t know where to start, this guide is the definitive resource.

If you think you’re alone in experiencing online harassment, rest assured that you aren’t. Without My Consent conducted their own online harassment survey, and it turns out that it is rampant. You can see the complete survey results here.

 

 

 

 

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Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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John Oliver Takes On Online Abuse, Revenge Porn

Below is an absolutely groundbreaking monologue from John Oliver last night on HBO’s Last Week Tonight. He clearly has the courage to say some things that few others are willing to say.

The piece starts out talking about garden variety online abuse but the proceeds to venture into misogyny, the online gaming communities’ virtual attacks on and threats against female opponents, and finally to Revenge Porn. Warning: some adult language ahead:

The Revenge Porn points that Oliver makes are perhaps the most powerful, possibly because so many in the media have been relying on victim blaming – “If she hadn’t taken the pictures in the first place…” – rather than trying to find solutions that actually protect victims’ rights.

In the video, Oliver also optimistically hints that a new national Revenge Porn law, The Intimate Privacy Protection Act of 2015, may become a reality this year. A Google search for the law comes up empty, so perhaps this is wishful thinking, or possibly a cynical comment on the fact that no politicians at the national level have tackled the problem yet.

The whole video is very much worth watching, but if there is any humor to be found in these very serious topics, the parody AOL ad which starts at the 14:40 mark is very good.

 

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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NFL Player Hit With Revenge Porn Charges

Revenge Porn, or nonconsensual porn, has been in the news all too often lately. Most often it’s a case of a jilted lover – someone far from the public eye – posting pictures of an ex to a website or social media, or sending pictures to friends in order to embarrass or harm the other party.

ny-jetsThis week a much higher profile story is playing out. Professional football player Jermaine Cunningham is scheduled to appear in New Jersey court Wednesday on charges that include the allegation that he sent nude pictures of a woman to her friends and family.

That the case is happening in new Jersey is significant; New Jersey had the country’s first Revenge Porn law dating back 11 years. Currently, 17 states have a law banning the act, and some believe Federal legislation could come as early as this year.

The path to a Federal law will not be easy, as free speech defenders are likely to form a stiff opposition as they are currently doing in Arizona. At issue is the fact that if you willingly give me a nude picture, it is mine and I can do with it what I want. Current state laws generally (and correctly) deal with this by considering the intent of the suspect. If me sending or posting the picture was meant to cause harm, I could be found guilty.

It goes without saying that if Cunningham sent the naked pictures as alleged, he will face penalties handed down by the court and additionally his career could be at risk. The NFL has been much more active lately in penalizing players for off-the-field conduct. Cunningham’s lawyer has claimed that he will be fully exonerated.

Obviously if the pictures had never been taken in the first place, all of this could have been avoided. The victim’s reputation and feelings have been damaged and whatever punishment is handed down, the act can’t be taken back.

When one or both consenting adults act badly, there is not much that can be done after the fact. With teens and tweens, we have a fantastic opportunity to warn and educate before sexting and potentially Revenge Porn become an issue.

 

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

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Behind the UK’s New Revenge Porn Law

This week legislators in the United Kingdom added a strong arrow to the quiver of prosecutors trying Revenge Porn cases – a penalty of two years in jail.

revenge porn lawTo be clear, Revenge Porn was already technically illegal in the UK, as prosecutors had been able to try cases under existing obscenity or harassment laws. The new statute gives prosecutors more specific power, and access to stricter penalties. The law covers people who share intimate images or video only, not those who receive them.

What we like about the new law:

Sharing/posting images must be intended to cause distress – Intent is important here, but difficult to prove, although it should be clear in most cases that a jilted ex had intent to cause distress in mind.

No free passes given – At least one reason such a law doesn’t exist in the U.S. is the issue of who owns the photo. If I send my mate a picture voluntarily, she then owns it, and presumably can do anything she wants with it. In the UK under the new law, that is no longer true.

Sharing is defined broadly – The law covers not just pictures or video posted publicly to social media sites, but also content sent to other users via text message or other medium, including showing someone a picture.

What is not clear is whether the law is intended to cover pictures or video of celebrities, as happened widely last year in the case of “The Fappening”. It is pretty obvious that those online leaks were not motivated by revenge or intent to distress.

There is still a lot of work to do in the U.S. to create appropriate national laws, but good parenting can go a long way to ensuring that your family doesn’t fall victim to Revenge Porn.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

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Selfies and Risk | Final Thoughts on the Celeb Leaked Nudes

We wrote earlier this week about the much-publicized leaks of celebrity nude photos, in a post we called: “…Leak of Celeb Nudes… a Teaching Moment for Parents”.

All week the debate has continued, much of it focused on how we the public should be thinking about violations of privacy such as this one.

We finished our earlier post by concluding:

“most importantly, don’t take risqué selfies. Ever. The repercussions can be devastating.”

There was a big backlash this week against the notion that since these celebs took the pictures in the first place, they were at least partly to blame. Actually we agree with that backlash – they are not to blame.

The acquisition of these pictures was theft, plain and simple. It is not appropriate to blame victims of theft when that which was stolen was safeguarded in a generally accepted manner. We do not support or condone victim blaming or slut shaming in any way. Our advice in the quote above was directed to parents talking to teens/tweens about making good decisions in tricky/risky situations.

Second is the issue of Revenge Porn, as many are calling this event. We think that describing what happened in this case as Revenge Porn is wrong.

In order to have effective Revenge Porn laws in place, we need a definition that makes sense and is enforceable in a very specific set of circumstances: when the victim either gives a photo to, or allows a photo to be taken by, a significant other, who then sends or posts the photo in order to harm or embarrass the victim. That set of circumstances will be impossible to legislate against when all incidents of inappropriate acquisition, transmission or distributing of risqué images are lumped into the same basket. In our view, the goal of the posters in this case was either financial gain of fame; not revenge.

If your son or daughter’s ex hacks an account or steals photos, that is already illegal and covered by existing laws. If the ex acquired the photos legally, then distributes them maliciously, a relevant law is required either nationally or in each state to deal with it fairly. We are not there yet.

Finally, there is a difference between telling your son or daughter not to send risqué selfies and blaming those who may have done so for eventual leaks. Our advice to parents stands; talk to your teens about not taking risqué selfies, even if it has become part of a normal romantic relationship in today’s environment.

 

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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NJ Teen Sexting Case – Is It Revenge Porn or Child Pornography?

Or neither?

Teen sexting is happening every day, and the numbers of ways that it can end up badly for the teens involved are being played out in the media on an almost daily basis. The story this week – of two New Jersey teens who have been charged with child pornography – is just the latest example.

Since the two individuals charged are both minors, not many details in the case have been made public, but stories from the Star Ledger at nj.com and the Bergen Record at northjersey.com lay out the following:

A West Orange boy, 16-years-old, allegedly texted nude pictures of his ex girlfriend, a 17-year-old from Woodland Park, to another 16-year-old girl. The second girl then allegedly shared the pictures with friends and may have posted them online. Both of the 16-year-olds have been charged with distributing child pornography and endangering the welfare of a child, and more charges are expected.

It is interesting that this case is happening in New Jersey. In January of this year a law went into effect that will shield minors convicted of sexting offenses from being put on the Sexual Predator Registry, previously one of the most damaging results of such a conviction. Even short of that, a child pornography conviction will have a devastating impact on the future of these teens.

As lawmakers and parents deal with the fallout from sexting and revenge porn cases, a number of questions need to be answered:

For lawmakers – Should photos or video willingly shared between two teens be considered child pornography? If the photos are taken willingly, should the subject be protected to the same extent as would be the case for photos that were stolen or otherwise obtained without consent? Is a minor who voluntarily shares nude photos guilty of anything?

A number of states are in the process of crafting revenge porn legislation, but even some states who already have legislation in place are being criticized for its shortcomings. There have been reports recently that there may be a Federal revenge porn law introduced as soon as this month.

For parents – Is there any way to stop teens from sexting? Is it possible to know whether your teen has already been sexting?

Unless you want to take your teen’s phone away, the answer to the first question above for parents is communication. Explaining the risk by showing them a copy of the story linked above about the West Orange teens would be a good start. On the second question, if the sexting is happening one on one, there is no way for you to know unless you know the password for your teen’s phone, and even then he or she might be diligent about hiding it.

We would never blame the victim, but it bears mentioning that if the victim in the West Orange story had never sent the photos, or allowed them to be taken, in the first place, none of this would have happened. For parents of younger kids, you need to start early and be proactive about the communication – don’t wait until there is a serious boyfriend or girlfriend in the picture. Ensuring your teen is aware of the risks well before having the first impulse to send a racy picture is the best preparation.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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Help For Revenge Porn Victims

Help For Revenge Porn Victims

Revenge porn, or involuntary porn, is a growing problem in our always on, always online lives. Few things are as traumatizing as finding out that photos or video that were shared privately, or taken without the victim’s knowledge, have found their way online and are now public.

Social media and the rise in smartphones and apps that enable photo messaging are contributing to the growth of revenge porn, and “private” apps like Snapchat have been revealed to have a number of design flaws or available hacks that degrade the stated “privacy” they offer.

Once a victim’s private pictures are found online, it can be a daunting task to find out how many pictures are out there and where they are located. ThirdParent offers a custom solution to make resolving your issue as efficient as possible

In addition to solutions offered by ThirdParent for revenge porn victims, there are other resources available. While laws vary from state to state, there is sometimes (some experts believe most of the time) legal relief available. If the pictures or video of the victim were created before his or her 18th birthday, there is almost always legal recourse.

The following websites have resources that victims may find helpful.

Without My Consent

The website Without My Consent offers resources for both revenge porn victims and attorneys who represent them.

Ridder Costa & Johnston LLP

The law firm of Ridder, Costa & Johnston LLP bills themselves as being “uniquely positioned to understand the convergence of creative expression, law, and technology”. Their website has helpful tips for what steps a victim if revenge porn should take to maximize chances at a successful legal remedy.

End Revenge Porn

The website End Revenge Porn was founded and is managed by revenge porn victim Holly Jacobs. The site includes victim stories, a support network and resources for victims. Ms. Jacobs is actively working with state legislators to make tougher laws against the sites hosting revenge porn content a reality.

Jolt Digest discusses criminal and civil liability for hosts and posters of revenge porn

The Mary Byron Project discusses the need to criminalize revenge porn.

If you are unsure where to start, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a free initial consultation.

New Developments – State Revenge Porn Laws

As of February, 2014, only New Jersey and California had revenge porn laws on the books, but that is about to change in a big way from the looks of it. A recent high-profile case in New York highlighted how behind the times current legislation is.

revenge-pornRevenge porn, or the act of posting sexually compromising pictures or video of an ex online with the intention of harassing, humiliating or for money, is widely viewed as reprehensible but not actually illegal in many jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, harassment or other statutes may apply, but the treatment under the law is by no means universal or reflective of new electronic modes of communication.

When laws are contemplated or introduced, complications and objections immediately arise. In the event that:

  • The victim willingly gave the photos to the perpetrator
  • The perp took the pictures, but the victim was willing
  • The pictures were obtained surreptitiously
  • The victim is a minor
  • First Amendment laws are high on the list of priorities of lawmakers

difficulties arise. Current laws adequately deal with some of the above. Weighing the import of each consideration in crafting an appropriate revenge porn law, and resulting punishment in the event that the perpetrator is found guilty, is proving difficult. For example, the California revenge porn law passed last week does not apply to selfies, only those pictures taken by the perpetrator.

Despite the roadblocks to a “perfect” revenge porn law, news reports indicate that at least fourteen states have a law being crafted or in some stage of moving through its respective state legislative process. Here’s a summary:

Arizona – Bill passed by House; headed to the Senate for Review.

Florida – Bill passed the House; in Senate committee for review.

Georgia – Bill passed by Senate with some changes, in the House for review.

Idaho – Bill is through committee and has been introduced in the house.

Illinois – Bill passed unanimously by the Senate. Opponents including the ACLU are vigorously opposed based on First Amendment concerns.

Maryland – Bill has been passed by the House, moved on to Senate.

Utah – Bill has been introduced in the House.

Virginia – Bill has been passed by House and Senate; is on Governor’s desk for signature.

Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin all have something in the works, or have temporarily shelved something that was being worked on.

Revenge porn is a serious issue, and despite the stops and starts, this is what progress looks like. At ThirdParent, in issues such as these, we put victims’ rights ahead of First Amendment concerns, in the even that the intent of the perpetrator is to harass or humiliate.

Stay tuned for more developments.

 

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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Push for Tough Revenge Porn Laws

Earlier this month in what was called the first New York case of its kind, a judge threw out a high profile revenge porn case based on his interpretation of a set of laws that are woefully behind the times.

no-revenge-pornIn the case, the defendant posted nude pictures of his ex on Twitter, and emailed them to the victim’s sister and boss. The Judge in the case did not consider a Twitter post to be “public dissemination”, which is crazy, and the emailed pictured did not constitute harassment because he did not encourage the recipients to share the photos with others.

The judge’s decision may well have been correct within a strict interpretation of the law in that case, but if it was, it underscores the need for new, more up to date legislation that accurately reflects our current communication modalities and the size of the internet population. As of this writing, only California and New Jersey have recently crafted revenge porn laws.

Now lawmakers in Pennsylvania are pushing for tougher revenge porn laws that would presumably address situations such as the one above. The bill, sponsored by Senator Judy Schwank, focuses on what it calls “Intimate Partner Harassment”. Under the law, any public dissemination of sexually explicit photos of exes will be a misdemeanor, provided that the photos were posted for the purpose of humiliating the victim.

The bill, which now goes to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, also promises stricter punishment in the event that the victim is a minor. If the victim is 18 or older, the offense is a second-degree misdemeanor, carrying a fine of $5,000 and two years’ imprisonment. If the victim is under 18, the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor, carrying a fine of $10,000 and five years’ imprisonment.

Even in states where there is revenge porn legislation, there has been criticism that the laws are imperfect or not a foolproof deterrent. It is going to take a while to get this right. We applaud any state that is at least making an effort to protect the rights of victims and do the right thing.

More information re: help for revenge porn victims here.

 

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