Sextortion is a crime without borders.
It is a crime that involves manipulating vulnerable people over the internet.
Sextortionists do not need borders to be caught. Aydin Coban was convicted this fall for sextortion, resulting in the suicide death of Amanda Todd.
Carol Todd the mother of Amanda Todd said, “Amanda’s offender was a Dutch National from the Netherlands and was eventually extradited to Canada for the trial. It is noteworthy that this has previously never been done.”
Amanda Todd was a victim to sextortion. She was 15-years-old when she died of suicide on Oct. 10, 2012. She was sextorted by a man named Aydin Coban, who in October 2022, received a Canadian sentence of 13 years in prison.
MediaSmarts is an organisation with digital and media literacy programs and resources for Canadians. Kara Brisson-Boivin, the director of research for MediaSmarts said, “… sextortion is when, for example, there’s an intimate image of someone and you send it to what you believe is a consensual relationship, and then the relationship ends and that person decides to use that image as a way to threaten you and or threatens to extort the image, they can threaten to leak it in a public way if you don’t do a particular thing this person wants you to do and or an image could be, that you shared could be in a consensual relationship could have been forwarded without your consent and then somebody now has this forwarded image could extort it in a similar way.”
Carol said, from 2009-12 Coban sextorted, stalked and harassed Amanda Todd, using 22 social media aliases and multiple accounts. He then shared a pornographic image of Amanda Todd to her family and friends, through a link that lead to a pornography site. After a few incidents Amanda Todd’s peers began to taunt, shame, bully and cyberbully her. The bullying and cyberbullying began to impact her mental health, which contributed to her suicide.
Even after the death of Amanda Todd, sextortion continues to be an issue in Canada.
Youth of all ages need to be careful when using online platforms. Exploiters attempt to guide, lure and manipulate youth into sending explicit pictures. For instance, exploiters can purchase victims gifts or lend them money, creating a debt between the victim and the exploiter.
PLEA recognizes the difficulty in helping children, youth, adults and families facing challenges that interfere with living fulfilling lives within their communities. Camila Jimenez, PLEA Community Program Manager said, “… in general I’d say with the topic of sextortion, in any sort of sexual exploitation it’s really hard to identify numbers, as to how many youth are being affected by the issue and that’s really because the victims are not coming forward.”
Cybertip.ca, Canada’s national tipline for reporting sextortion states, they have received over 600 sextortion reports between July and August of this year.
While placing some accountability on youth is important, a larger amount of accountability is placed on parents. To better prepare internet users, especially those of whom are children, it is important for online safety to be implemented in young people’s lives.
The White Hatter is a digital literacy and internet safety education specialist company. Co-Founder Darren Laur says, “… to keep your kids safe online it’s a five part based strategy. Number one is allowing your kids to have some age appropriate agency, what are they doing online? Number two parents need to start modelling good online behaviour, a good example is if you’re bringing your cellphone into the bathroom guess what your kids are going to think. Number three is parental communication with your kids, what are they doing online? Number four is parental participation, learn by doing with them, and number five is parental overwatch, where appropriate and reasonable to do so.”
Parents must learn how to communicate with their children by having continuous conversations. One conversation at a young age is not enough to capture the complexities of sexuality and online safety. However, it is equally important to recognize and accept children’s boundaries, an example would be whether a child is comfortable with a parent looking through their devices.
Dr. Jillian Roberts a psychologist says, “It’s about having confidence in how you’ve raised your children up to a certain point… if we are too much of a helicopter parent we run the risk of not giving our children the space to create their own lives. It is important we find a way to give children the space that they need, but in a balanced safe way, it’s not about one conversation that prepares a child in one moment but we have to have trust and faith we’ve prepared them well.”
The increase of resources, education, awareness and evolved forms of parenting surrounding sextortion can suggest the world has made some changes and will continue to work on solving the sextortion issue in Canada.