Tips For Policy Makers
YOU PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN STOPPING SEXTORTION.
Our kids are trying to navigate community and connection in the digital age, while we’re trying to keep up with keeping them safe. Unfortunately, technology moves faster than our laws are able to respond to new abuse trends. By learning about these trends – like sextortion – and including them in your policy agenda, you can help kids feel safe and supported.
Your Next Steps
Learn more and improve the laws that keep kids safe
“I was told I could be held responsible for making and distributing child pornography.”
Understand the issue.
Sextortion is an emerging form of online abuse where perpetrators threaten to expose sexual images of victims in order to make them do something. The cases vary, but across the board perpetrators often attempt to harass, embarrass and control victims. The threats are real – 1 in 8 victims we surveyed moved because they feared for their safety. Learn more about sextortion and the serious consequences of this abuse.
“Since he had only threatened and I willingly sent the photos, there was, allegedly, nothing [police] could do.”
– Female, 17, sextortion survivor
Embrace the nuance.
Sextortion is complicated, especially when it involves two or more minors. The most impactful legislation will address the entire ecosystem of abuse and recognize kid’s daily access to technology.
Victims should be at the center of any policy. An image that remains available online, is abuse that is ongoing. Teens told us they were scared to report. We can make them feel safe by recognizing sextortion as abuse and providing resources, even if they first willingly provided an intimate image to their eventual abuser.
Law enforcement need training to educate them on the nuances of these crimes, and guidance to focus on context in addition to content.
Tech companies don’t want their platforms abused. They need Good Samaritan provisions that allow them to report abuse on their site, and should adopt industry best practices to make their platforms safer for kids.
Identify policy gaps.
As of September 2017, 38 US states and the District of Columbia have related laws in place (CA Goldberg Law) and a federal law was introduced in 2016. These are great first steps. Understanding emerging trends can help these laws become more responsive to kids’ needs so that more kids can be safe online.
Develop effective laws.
If you’re writing new legislation or updating an existing law, include key components necessary for it to be effective. Cyber Civil Rights Initiative has great advice in their Guide for Legislators, including guidance on mens rea, intent, types of images covered, first amendment protections, and liability for downstream distributors.
Put sextortion on your agenda.
Staffers working on technology, violence against women, and law enforcement should learn about sextortion as a new form of dating violence. By investing in addressing sextortion now, we can protect kids from future abuse.
Listen to survivors.
Those who have experienced sextortion can provide key insights into how the crime is being carried out, what they faced when coming forward, and how it has impacted their lives since.
The key to good criminal legislation is that the end result applies to real world harms while being narrowly tailored to pass constitutional muster, and for the punishment to be sufficient to deter the behavior.
Safety in the digital age is new. Chances are kids feel more comfortable navigating digital communities than adults, without knowing enough to stay safe. The following resources have been curated to help adults learn how to support kids.
For Your Friends