Putting a Stop to Online Blackmail

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Feb 23 2021

Human interaction is being taken up entirely online in recent years. We are becoming a generation of tech savvy netizens building virtual bridges with each other through the power of the internet. 

This phenomenon has become clearly apparent since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. From Whatsapp calls to Zoom meetings and working from home, we saw how much technology is capable of meeting new demands in our changing human society. 

However, as technology grows so do societies woes. Sadly internet and smart technology have also become sinister tools in the arsenal of criminals, terrorists and most commonly; sex offenders, who have magnified their outreach to spread their evil in many ways.  

From criminals selling drugs in clandestine ‘stores’ to terrorists recruiting and training impressionable youth online, there are parts of the internet that can be best described as a wretched hive of scum and villainy. 

However, the world of depraved pornography found online eclipses the works of the drug dealers and terrorists on the internet. Pornography online has become a permanent facet with porn sites getting millions of hits a day; second only to social media giants (Facebook, twitter), retailers (Amazon, ebay) and streaming services (Netflix, Hulu) in terms of traffic. However, it is on some of these ‘normal’ porn sites that have become common places for ‘revenge porn’.

Revenge porn is the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress. The images are sometimes accompanied by personal information about the subject, including their full name, address and links to their social media profiles. 

The offence applies both online and offline and to images which are shared electronically or in a more traditional way, so includes the uploading of images on the internet, sharing by text and e-mail, or showing someone a physical or electronic image.

Revenge porn has steadily become a serious issue in Sri Lanka with the growing Smartphone and internet use. Concerns have been mounting with several civic groups lobbying the Government due to youth and school children being the most common victims of this social ill.

Accordingly, Minister of Public Security Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara recently said that authorities will be taking serious action against those found guilty of blackmailing women by using personal photos and videos. 

“We have expanded the hotline 118 to connect to six other official numbers, where any female individual who goes through any type of harassment such as blackmail, could contact. The identity of the victim will be confidential and severe action against the accused will be taken. We will reveal the identity of the accused in the Media,” he added.

Weerasekara added that a special team will be added to all 44 Police Divisions to prevent violence against Women and Children, Extortion, Underworld Activities and Drug Trafficking.

He explained that the motive is to prevent crime, rather than getting the accused once the crime was committed.

The most horrifying aspect of revenge porn is that it often leads to human trafficking and prostitution. Victims, most often children or youth, are coerced by these sex predators by blackmail through incriminating pictures and videos to do more obscene things online and things get worse from there. Once in their clutches the victims are ‘sold’ to clients or risk being exposed. Even private pictures shared with consent between two parties have led to such circumstances. 

There is a huge degree of responsibility on the part of pornography sites themselves as most of these videos and photos are usually posted. Pornographic websites should adopt policies to flag and remove any material that is revenge porn or risk lawsuits by global governments for violating their respective countries’ rules against sexual offences. 

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM Feb 23 2021

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