What is Sextortion?

Law
30-Jul-2022
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Nowadays, our whole life revolves around the internet and social media, this has given rise to various crimes and offenses of various natures. Young boys and girls are more likely to get trapped in such crimes and perpetrators tend to take disadvantage of that. Unfortunately, the victims of Sextortion are not limited to young boys and girls, many politicians, businessmen, and renowned people have fallen prey to this trap.

According to times of India, Currently, India is witnessing more than 500 cases of sextortion on daily basis out of which only 1% are registered. So many people do not even register their complaints due to shame and fear. Last year, a public representative of a political party in Maharashtra, fell into this trap. A person sitting in Rajasthan was blackmailing him and extorting a huge amount of money from him before being caught by the police. Let’s look at various aspects of Sextortion in this article.

What is Sextortion?

Sextortion is one such kind of an online crime where cyber criminals or bullies threaten people to distribute or spread or make viral, their sensitive or sexual personal data, in exchange for sexual favors of any kind or money.

Internet blackmailers dupe innocent people online to share their sexual activities with them. They majorly come across as young girls or women to trick men or boys and initiate conversations on various social media platforms which are mainly dating apps. They convince them to do a video chat or call and then record all the activities performed therein. Hacking of personal images and videos is also a part of sextortion. Based on these materials, they extort money from the victims which do not stop at a once or twice ransom amount but extend to multiple ransom demands. 

Recently, a 42-year-old gym trainer filed a police complaint in the Delhi police station stating that he is getting various extortion calls and messages on Whatsapp demanding money. The culprits are demanding money from him, and he is getting links for payment. Warnings are given to him stating that if he does not transfer money to the blackmailers his chat and videos will be shared with his wife and other family members. It is becoming a never-ending demand cycle for the perpetrators and more and more people are falling into this trap daily.

Various kinds of Sextortion

There are four kinds of sextortion mainly:

Social Media

Major sextortion crimes take place on social media websites or dating apps, as it is the most vulnerable platform to trap people in such a thing. The culprits start by initiating conversations with the victims and later, force them to share their sexual or intimate images or videos with them. 

Phishing Schemes

In this, the sender sends an email stating that they have access to your private folder and will mention your passwords in the email body. Based on such passwords, they threaten innocent people to publish their private images or videos online and demand unsolicited wants from them. 

Hacked Webcams

This is the scariest form of sextortion, as the perpetrator hacks the web camera of your device and watches your every action or step by gaining access to your camera and microphone. They even get access to all the passwords of your accounts. 

Account Hacking

It is a common exercise that takes place in most cases. Culprits straight away hack your account and get access to all your data and sensitive information that you have shared on social media or chats. If you don’t comply with their demand they threaten you by saying that they will distribute your data to the public.

You might be Intrested in: How to Prevent Cybercrime.

Laws Governing Sextortion

Currently, there is no clear-cut law that lays down the provisions for sextortion, it is majorly covered in the various sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.

  • Assault or criminal force on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty under Section 354 of the IPC is a protection given to women when they are subjected to any kind of sexual assault, however, it does not cover the gravity of this offense in its entirety.
  • Extortion under the Section 384 of the IPC deals with extortion offenses but it does not directly cover the punishment for sextortion.
  • Information Technology Act, 2000 majorly covers the offenses committed online, commonly known as cyber-crimes, however, it also does not deal with the provisions of sextortion directly.
  • Defamation under Section 499 also deals with such situations as it states that no person should commit any act that hurts an individual’s reputation or character.

Unfortunately, there is a lacuna in our present legal framework as it does not covers the aspects of such a grave offense that is happening to every other person in the country.

You might be Intrested in: Data Protection Laws

What to do if you are the victim

  • If you are a victim of sextortion then the first thing you should do is file an FIR in your nearest police station and seek help legally, rather than letting the culprit roam around freely. You can even complain online on the website of the Ministry of Home Affairs. Reporting the crime is a crucial step to deal with sextortion. 
  • Discussing the problem with your loved ones helps you in overcoming the situation and gives emotional support. Feeling embarrassed and shame are natural reactions in these situations but one needs to set them aside and discuss the issue with their loved ones. 
  • The most important step is to NOT FOLLOW THE DEMANDS OF THE BLACKMAILERS! This is the most common mistake all the victims do when there are subjected to sextortion, they keep meeting the illicit demands of the blackmailers, in the fear of public release of their sensitive information. This encourages the culprits and gives them the confidence to trap more and more people in this heinous crime. 
  • You should keep all the records related to the crime and should not delete anything related to it as it helps the police in investigating the matter.

You might be Intrested in: HOW TO REGISTER A CYBERCRIME COMPLAINT ONLINE?

Tips to Avoid Sexortion

There are no written rules or tips that we can follow to avoid sextortion but the main tool through which we can avoid or curtail it is by de-stigmatizing it. Stigmatization is the only basis on which this whole crime depends, if we stop stigmatizing sex and things associated with it, no one can do anything about it. It will destroy the basis on which Sextortion is solely based.

We see so many popular female artists and celebrities being a victim of Sextortion on regular basis. One cannot imagine but it leaves a grave imprint on the mind of the victim which could lead to adverse actions. Hence, de-stigmatization is the strongest tool through which we can eradicate this crime.

Secondly, awareness and education about these crimes is a second tool through which Sextortion can be avoided. We can groom our young minds that such things occur on the internet and how it appears to be. By teaching them about the approach to the crime and its repercussions, this crime can be avoided. Avoiding any random text that shows any sexually suggestive theme or image or video from an unknown user can also be done to avoid sextortion.

To end with, the strongest weapon to eradicate this offense is to report it. People should report the crime if they are victims of it without the fear of being judged, as it is significant to get these culprits to get punished and brought behind the bars to stop this horrendous crime against innocent people.

Conclusion

Sextortion is spreading like cancer in our society in different forms taking disadvantage of innocent people’s vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, it is not defined under any Indian statute or legislation which is acting as a hindrance in punishing the culprits in the right manner. Educating people about what is sextortion is also a significant step in eradicating this crime. 

FAQ

What documents are required while filing a complaint?

All the screenshots of the content, any identity proof or details of the blackmailers, email address, and a written complaint are required while registering a complaint of sextortion.

Should I be concerned if I have received any email regarding sextortion?

No, if it is just an email, there are high chances that they are spam, and one should not reply to it or pay any money owing to such threats.

Is it safe to share sensitive personal images online?

No, it is never safe to share any sexual or nude images or videos on social media as they are always getting stored in the storage even if you delete them.

Should I be afraid if I am a victim of sextortion?

No, there is no need to be ashamed or feared of any kind of sextortion, communicate and share your problem with your loved ones for emotional support and report it to the police within the time frame.


Author Bio: Adv KAMLESH KUMAR MISHRA is a distinguished advocate specializing in Human rights law, civil law, criminal law, and multiple other fields of law. With over 10 years of legal experience, Adv KAMLESH KUMAR MISHRA brings a wealth of expertise in cases related to, demolition and human rights. He has also practiced at different tribunals like NGT, DRT, CAT, etc. For the past few years, Adv. Adv KAMLESH KUMAR MISHRA has also been serving as a legal aid counsel as well and his legal expertise and unwavering dedication to his clients have earned him widespread respect and admiration in the legal community.