The Online Threat to Kids That No One Is Talking About

Sextortion is a cybercrime that relies on victims feeling too ashamed to ask for help when an abuser threatens to distribute their intimate images.

Our core focus at Thorn is building technology to defend children from sexual abuse. After researching emerging trends in online abuse—we realized sextortion was a huge issue and we knew we had to do something. While sextortion is a crime that has been created in part by technology, we saw that it couldn’t be resolved solely with a technical solution. This propelled us to create this campaign.

Our goal is to bring this issue into the light, spark discussion and create a safe space for children to ask for help if they need it. We want to encourage parents to listen and talk to their children about online dangers. Our children are growing up in a very different world than we did. They are exploring their sexuality in a digital age and that means there are new minefields to talk about.

Thorn’s social campaign kicks off this week with a video that we were lucky enough to have ‘Pretty Little Liars’ actress Shay Mitchell narrate for us. Mitchell feels strongly that, “too many sextortion victims stay quiet because of shame. We have to spread the word that we have each other’s backs.”

Our video explores how sextortion happens, and we want folks to watch it, share it, and tell at least three friends today that you’ll have their back if this ever happens to them. People can also find additional resources on how to navigate this issue and information for parents, friends, policymakers and tech companies at www.stopsextortion.com.

Thorn’s work spans trafficking, the spread of child abuse material, and sextortion as they all happen at the intersection of child sexual abuse and technology. As technology innovation continues, our work will become even more important. And, it will become more important for kids and parents to become engaged and take action on these issues together.

Julie Cordua is the CEO of Thorn. For more info on Thorn, visit https://www.wearethorn.org/.

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