Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The FBI is bringing awareness to ‘sextortion’ with this campaign

In an effort to ensure children who are victimized know they aren’t in trouble and more importantly, are not alone, the FBI has launched a campaign around “sextortion” concurrent with the new school year.

FBI officials defined “sextortion” as the criminal act of manipulating a minor via the internet into taking explicit images of themselves and then threatening harm or exposure of the images as blackmail to keep the child producing pornographic material.

“In one case, the criminal threatened a girl — saying he would hurt her and bomb her school—if she didn’t send pictures,” the FBI said.

Christina Pullen, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Norfolk, said the campaign’s goal is to educate and increase awareness for parents and children as the number of sextortion cases across the nation, including Hampton Roads, are rising.

Pullen referenced what she called “a classic example of sextortion,” when a former soldier stationed at Fort Eustis was sentenced to 30 years after he posed as a young girl online as a way to obtain photos of girls in 2016.

Posters went up in schools earlier this month with a message informing kids they are not the criminal in incidents like these, and Pullen said agents are regularly deployed into the community or can be requested by groups to talk cyber safety with parents, educators, and students.

“Our office also promotes the FBI’s Safe Online Surfing program for schools to teach cyber safety, but parents and kids can also use the free resource on their own,” she said.

The FBI's "Stop Sextortion" campaign runs in September. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation)
The FBI’s “Stop Sextortion” campaign runs in September. (Southside Daily/Courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation)

The campaign has its own hashtag on social media platforms where parents, students, and educators are encouraged to follow the FBI’s accounts. 

Victims of sextortion should immediately report the crime to local authorities, but Pullen said it should also be reported to the social media platform where it’s occurring.

At the same time, Pullen advised parents to leave the enforcement to authorities.

“We strongly discourage parents from attempting to communicate with the predator or try to take matters into their own hands,” she said.

Access more information about the FBI’s Stop Sextortion campaign by clicking here.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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