Big Issues

How Can We Stop The Sextortion Of Young Australians?

sextortion meta acce

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The “sextortion” of young Aussies is on the rise. In December 2022, there was a 60 percent increase in reporting to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCE), which is run by the Australian Federal Police (AFP). Now Meta are finally stepping in to address the role social media plays in spreading sextortion content.

Partnering with the ACCE, Kids Helpline, and NoFiltr — a US-based organisation helping young people safely navigate “sexual exploration” online — Meta have launched a community service announcement. It’s hoped the announcement, running from November 9 to December 14 on Facebook and Instagram, will inform young people on the dangers of sextortion online and where to seek support.

According to the eSafety Commissioner, sextortion is a form of online blackmail where someone tricks a person into sending sexual images, then threatens to release them if their demands are not met. Usually that’s in the form of financial payment, further images, or even sexual favours. It’s a worryingly growing trend among young Australians and investigators believe reports to the ACCE will peak once again during this December school holiday period. 

“We all need to be aware that sextortion does exist and education is key to protecting ourselves,” AFP Acting Commander ACCE and Human Exploitation Frank Rayner said of the partnership with Meta. The initiative will include new educational assets encouraging “preventative behaviours” online and where to report and seek support if needed. There’s also an educational sextortion quiz to help young people spot potential signs of risk. 

In order to get a better understanding of the initiative and how it can help young people, Junkee spoke to a Meta spokesperson.

Junkee: Why has there been a rise in the number of young Aussies reporting sextortion? 

The latest data from ACCCE shows they are receiving around 300 reports of sextortion targeting children each month. That’s why this initiative is so timely and heading into the end-of-year break, where the ACCCE has typically seen an increase in reports. 

How can we better shift the blame of sextortion from young people to the perpetrators? 

One of the aims of this campaign is to remove the stigma around sextortion. The education series explains a reporting, awareness and support message. 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 they are in, this can happen to anyone and most importantly, help is available. 

What role can social media platforms like Meta play in stopping the spread of sextortion materials? 

Aside from online safety campaigns we’ve launched with our partners, we have developed tools to help people who are worried about their intimate images being shared online without their consent. 

We do not allow the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, or threats to share those images without permission on Facebook or Instagram and have built dedicated tools that young people can use, like Meta’s Take it Down Tool, a new platform designed by NCMEC to proactively prevent young people’s intimate images from spreading online, including images produced by generative AI products. 

It’s also why we’ve partnered with the ACCCE and Kids Helpline to launch this campaign so we can raise awareness of sextortion with young Australians. 

Help is always available on Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, at Lifeline on 13 11 14. In emergencies, call 000.

Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and writer at Junkee. Follow them on Instagram or on X.

Image: NoFiltr