It’s the threat to reveal intimate images

to get you to do something you don’t want to do


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

Learn more about sextortion

and the serious consequences of this abuse. 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.


“Since he had only threatened and I willingly sent the photos, there was, allegedly, nothing [police] could do.” – Female, 17, responding to Thorn survey

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.


“I was told I could be held responsible for making and distributing child pornography .” – Female, 14, responding to Thorn survey


Victims should be at the center of any policy we make. 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 [C.A. 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 the 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.

Social Media + Sextortion: What You Need to Know
Teens play an active role in online safety
Is sextortion online harassment? Yes.
Sextortion: I want people to remember my story
More blogs on sextortion


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.