Ten years after the death of Amanda Todd, Aydin Coban was found guilty of five counts related to the online sextortion of the Port Coquitlam teenager.
Coban was found guilty of extortion, harassment, communication with a young person to commit a sexual offence, possession of child pornography and distribution of child pornography in a B.C. Supreme Court verdict.
Coban’s lead counsel Joe Saulnier said an appeal was “a possibility.”
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Speaking to the Vancouver Sun, Amanda’s mother Carol Todd emphasized the need to discuss sextortion.
“It has set a new precedent,” she said. “And it’s Amanda who made this happen for us.”
Everyone from students and parents to police officers and prosecutors need more information about sextortion, Todd wrote on social media. She called sextortion a: “serious global epidemic.”
Tactics of extortionists
Girls tend to be targeted online far more often than boys, with Statistics Canada reporting that 86 percent of the victims of online sexual offences are girls.
Just days before the verdict, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection warned of adolescent boys being targeted on social media, particularly on Instagram and Snapchat.
Extortionists tend to dupe their victims into believing they’re having a sexual conversation with someone about their age. If the victim sends an intimate image of themselves, the extortionist either demands money or more photos, according to a release from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
However, there is also another tactic in which the extortionist sends a nude photo of a child to the victim. The blackmailer then threatens to report the victim to police for having the photo in their possession.
“This continues to reinforce the need for the public to ask questions and for the government to step in and impose regulatory guardrails for the technology industry,” stated Canadian Centre for Child Protection executive director Lianna McDonald.
There were more than 100 sextortion reports made last June, according to Cyptertip.ca, Canada’s national tipline for reporting online child sexual abuse. The previous high was 78.
The tipline recommends victims stop all communication with a blackmailer and reach out to police, NeedHelpNow.ca and Cybertip.ca. Victims should deactivate but not delete any of the accounts used to communicate with the extortionist, according to Cyptertip.ca
Only ‘a fraction’ of offences reported
The frequency of online child sexual exploitation in Canada has “generally been on an upward trend” since 2014, when the data first became available, according to a report from Statistics Canada.
In 2014, analysts documented approximately 50 incidents of online sexual exploitation and abuse per 100,000 children. By 2020, the rate had increased to 131 incidents of exploitation and abuse per 100,000 children.
Self-reported victimization studies show that, in general, “only a fraction of sexual offences are reported,” according to Statistics Canada. “As a result, police-reported data likely underestimate the true extent of this form of abuse in Canada.”
Most crimes go unsolved
Approximately 56 percent of online child sexual exploitation and abuse cases go unsolved, according to Statistics Canada.
Overall, charges were laid or recommended in 32 percent of all online child sexual offence incidents investigated by police, according to Statistics Canada.
Speaking to the Globe and Mail, Toronto lawyer Molly Reynolds said a lot of people who report crimes aren’t getting proper attention.
“The demand is huge. It is at least a 10-year-old crisis, and we are just beginning to understand it more broadly across Canada,” she said.
The 2021 budget included $20.7 million over five years intended to help RCMP investigate online child sexual exploitation and bring offenders to justice.
Investigations tend to be hampered by the proliferation of new devices and the “improved anonymity capabilities” of offenders.
Statistics Canada also reported that, in 39 percent of cases, children are victimized by a stranger.
However, non-consensual distribution of intimate photos and videos is often carried out by the victims’ peers with girls being the victims approximately 86 percent of the time.
Things got worse during pandemic
There were 30 online sexual offences against children in 2020 and 101 incidents of child pornography, the most ever recorded in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.
The rate of online child pornography reported to police rose 35 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to Statistics Canada.
The move to online learning during the pandemic may have come with risks, according to Statistics Canada analyst Dyna Ibrahim.
“Among the most serious risks of spending time online, especially for children, is the susceptibility to online sexual exploitation and abuse”
The victims of child sexual exploitation tend to suffer: “psychological difficulties, negative sexual development, and subsequent substance misuse and depressive symptomology,” Ibrahim wrote.
The targeted children may also continue to be victimized by the actual or threatened redistribution of their images, “long after any contact abuse has ended,” according to Ibrahim.