EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The FBI is reporting about violent online groups targeting minors on public platforms to extort them into recording acts of self-harm and producing sexual material.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, these public online groups are deliberately targeting minors on available messaging platforms to extort them into recording or live-streaming acts of self-harm and producing child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
These groups are allegedly using threats, blackmail, and manipulation to control the victims into recording self-harm, sexually explicit acts, or suicide. Investigators say the footage is then circulated among members to extort victims further and exert control over them.
Violent Online Groups to Look Out For:
The violent online groups use many names such as:
- Harm Nation
- Leak Society
The groups continuously evolve and form subgroups under different monikers. They operate on publicly available platforms, such as social media sites or mobile apps.
Police say to gain access to a majority of these groups, prospective members are required to live-stream or upload videos depicting their minor victims harming animals or committing self-harm, suicide, murder, or other acts of violence.
The key motivators of these groups are to gain notoriety and rise in status within their groups, according to the FBI.
Who are they Targeting:
The groups target minors between the ages of 8 and 17 years old, especially LGBTQ+
youth, racial minorities, and those who struggle with a variety of mental health issues, such
as depression and suicidal ideation.
How the groups extort victims and cause them to self-harm:
The groups use extortion and blackmail tactics, such as threatening to SWAT and if the minors do not comply with the groups’ requests, they manipulate and extort the victim into producing CSAM and videos depicting animal cruelty and self-harm.
Members of the groups threaten to share sexually explicit videos or photos of the minor victims with their family, and friends, and post to the internet.
The FBI recommends the following warning signs regarding self-harm or suicide:
- Sudden behavior changes such as becoming withdrawn, moody, or irritable.
- Sudden changes in appearance, especially neglect of appearance.
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits.
- Dropping out of activities and becoming more isolated and withdrawn.
- Scars, often in patterns.
- Fresh cuts, scratches, bruises, bite marks, burns, or other wounds.
- Carvings, such as words or symbols, on the skin.
- Wearing long sleeves or pants in hot weather.
- Threatening to commit suicide and openly talking about death, not being wanted or
needed or not being around.
The FBI recommends the following when sharing content or engaging with individuals online:
- Monitor children’s online activity and discuss the risks of sharing personal content.
- Use discretion when posting images, videos, and personal content online, particularly
those that include children or their information.
- Images, videos, or personal information posted online can be captured, manipulated, and distributed by malicious actors without your knowledge or consent.
- Once content is shared on the internet, it can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to remove once it is circulated or posted by other parties.
- Apply privacy settings on social media accounts—including setting profiles and your
friends’ lists as private—to limit the public exposure of your photos, videos, and other
- Exercise caution when accepting friend requests, communicating, engaging in video
conversations, or sending images to individuals, you do not know personally.
- Do not provide any unknown or unfamiliar individuals with money or other items of value.
Complying with malicious actors does not guarantee your sensitive photos or content will
not be shared.
- Use discretion when interacting with known individuals online who appear to be acting
outside their normal pattern of behavior.
The FBI urges the public to exercise caution when posting or directly messaging personal
photos, videos, and identifying information on social media, dating apps, and other online
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provides a free service known as Take It Down, which helps minor victims, even if they are now an adult, but were victimized as a minor, with online image or video files, remove or stop the online sharing of nude, or sexually explicit content taken while under 18 years old.