Sunday, August 15, 2010


Has anyone else heard of this?

According to the Toronto Star, federal prosecutors and child safety advocates reveal they’re discovering an accumulation in cases of online sexual extortion. They tell us that youth who text naked cellphone pictures of themselves or flash themselves on cyberspace are being approached (online) by pornographers who blackmail to out their indecent acts to friends and family, unless they pose for more hardcore porn. This, of course, allows the pornographers to coerce and control these impressionable minors into the dangerous sex trade trafficking industry. One federal affidavit mentions a specific term for the crime: “sextortion.”

No one presently monitors the amount of incidents involving cyber sexual extortion in state and federal courts, but prosecutors and others lean toward a few previous high-profile instances victimizing vulnerable adolescents in approximately 12 states:

•In Alabama, Jonathan Vance, 24, of Auburn was sentenced to 18 years in prison in April after he confessed to sending harassing emails on Facebook and MySpace extorting naked pictures from over 50 young women in Alabama, Pennsylvania and Missouri.

•In Wisconsin, Anthony Stancl, 18, attained 15 years in prison in February after prosecutors said he created a fraud account and impersonated a non-existent female on Facebook to manipulate male high school classmates into sending him naked cellphone pictures, which he then implemented to extort them for sexual intercourse.

•A 31-year-old California man was arrested in June on extortion charges after authorities claim he hacked into at least 200 computers and blackmailed to release naked photos he acknowledged, unless their owners posed for more sexually explicit videos. Forty-four of the victims were minors, authorities said. Federal prosecutors said he was even able to somehow turn on a few victims’ webcams without their awareness and tape them taking off their clothes or having sex.

The cases have encouraged law enforcement officials and advocates to warn teens about their online activities. They remind us again that once something's on the internet - even if someone deletes a provocative picture on Facebook - it will always be there, whether it is shared and posted on other social networking, pornographic, or messaging sites - or whether the owners of these sites, police officers, etc. can see it. Someone can easily click on a button and send a picture through your boyfriend's phone - to the entire school.

In an Indiana case, the teenage girl’s mother contacted police when she found out about the threats. Authorities subpoenaed Internet service providers to trace the chats and emails to their source, a computer in Mechanicsville, Md., according to court documents.

According to court documents, the computer’s owner, Trevor Shea, admitted to agents he had been involved in similar ploys with approximately 10 girls, majority of them - barely legal - 17 or 18 years old.

His trial is set for Aug. 30. He has pleaded not guilty and his attorney, Michael Donahoe, claims he is working on a potential settlement.

I posted this article to remind everyone (not just teens) to be wary of what they post on the internet, whether it'd even be an innocent picture of you on the beach in a bikini, or a crazy photo of you drunk clubbing with a few friends. Remember, these photos can sabotage your reputation, relationships, career, and - most importantly - your safety.

Thank you.

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