Meta has partnered with the Australian Federal Police-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE), Kids Helpline and US-based organisation NoFiltr, to launch today a community service announcement to inform young people about the dangers of online sextortion.
Lead image: Mia Garlick, regional policy director, Meta ANZ.
Sextortion is a form of online blackmail where someone tricks a person into sending sexual images and then threatens to share them unless their demands are met, usually for financial payment, more images or sexual favours. It is a growing trend targeting young Australians.
To help raise awareness of this issue amongst young Australians, the initiative includes new educational assets encouraging preventative behaviours online, including the signs to look out for, where to report and where to seek support if it does happen to them.
The initiative includes assets developed by No Filtr, a US-based non-for-profit youth prevention program that partners with organisations from across the world to help prevent the spread of child abuse material online. The assets include:
- Educational videos shared across social media outlining how users can report sextortion and get support from family or friends, law enforcement and Kids Helpline.
- An educational sextortion quiz to encourage young people to test their knowledge on sextortion and get further information
- Ads promoting the videos and quiz across social media.
It comes after the ACCCE experienced a 60 per cent increase in reports of sextortion of young Australians in December 2022. Investigators anticipate an increase in reports leading into the December school holiday period again this year. The latest data shows ACCCE receives around 300 reports of sextortion of children each month despite only one in 10 report it.
Speaking on the partnership, AFP acting commander ACCCE and human exploitation Frank Rayner said, “the new initiative is an important step in raising awareness of sextortion by speaking directly to our younger generation.
“As well as encouraging conversation and raising awareness, we hope this helps young people recognise, understand and protect themselves from sextortion, and to know where to report and seek support,” said acting commander Rayner.
“We all need to be aware that sextortion does exist and education is key to protecting ourselves”.
yourtown CEO Tracy Adams said, “Kids Helpline, a service of yourtown, is proud to support the AFP-led ACCCE awareness campaign and to work collaboratively as a whole-of-sector response to stop the spread of sextortion images on social media platforms.
“If your child is or has been a victim, it is important to stay calm and reassure them that it’s not their fault and that there is help available through Kids Helpline, which work in partnership with the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE), police and the eSafety Commissioner,” continued Ms Adams.
Kids Helpline reports the current target for sextortion appears to be young males between the ages of 14–19. Available 24 hours a day, seven days per week, children and young people can choose to contact Kids Helpline by telephone, WebChat or email counselling when they need to talk through issues including online safety concerns.
Results from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2023, identify that 431 sextortion-based contacts were made to Kids Helpline. However, of these 431 contacts, 287 or 66 per cent of these contacts, have occurred over the past 12 months between July 2022 and June 2023.
yourtown CEO Ms Adams said that a whole-of-community response is crucial to protect children. This importantly includes increased awareness and education aimed at preventing online extortion from happening in the first place. Kids Helpline provides reputable information on sextortion to help keepyoung people safe.
Meta’s regional policy director, Mia Garlick, said, “We’re proud to support the AFP-led ACCCE and Kids Helpline in raising awareness of these important tools and services available should young Australians be concerned about sextortion or non-consensual sharing of images online.
“We know the spread of intimate images can be an extremely traumatic experience for young people, and we want them to know that it does not matter what personal circumstances you are in – this can happen to anyone and most importantly – help is available.
“We are committed to working with the broader industry to ensure we can help educate young people about the risk of sharing these images and to stop the spread of these images on our platforms.”
In collaboration with today’s announcement, Meta has created dedicated products to stop the spread of intimate images online, including Take It Down, a first-of-its-kind global platform that people can use to proactively prevent intimate images of minors from spreading online.
Take It Down enables people to generate a hash of the intimate images or videos privately and directly from their own devices, without having to upload their images or videos to the platform. The platform means Facebook and Instagram can now use those hashes to scan and see if images or videos that match are coming onto their platforms. From there, Meta can remove images or videos that match that hash, stopping the spread of that content in its tracks.
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