Verdict in Amanda Todd case sparks new calls to tackle online sex extortion

WARNING: This article contains details about sexual extortion and may affect those who have experienced it or know someone who has experienced it.

Parents and child protection experts reflect on Amanda Todd’s legacy and what urgently needs to happen to help keep children safe online following Dutch man’s conviction for sexually extorting the British Columbia teenager, who committed suicide as a result.

For Derek Lints, Saturday’s guilty verdict against Aydin Coban “is unprecedented” and he hopes it will inspire real change.

“Our hope is with this belief, it gives victims the courage to come forward and see that something can be done to help them,” he said.

Lints’ 17-year-old son, Daniel, died by suicide in February, just hours after he fell victim to an online sex extortion scheme carried out using Snapchat.

“These people can be found, charged and convicted,” Lints, of Pilot Mound, Man., told CBC News in an interview after Coban was convicted by a jury in New Westminster, British Columbia.

Coban was convicted of extortion, two counts of possession of child pornography, child luring and stalking Todd. The 15-year-old took her own life on October 10, 2012, after posting a video on YouTube saying she had been blackmailed by an online predator.

Coban was extradited from the Netherlands in 2020 to face the charges. He has not been charged in connection with Todd’s death.

Todd’s mother, Carol Todd, said after the verdict she believed the case had set a precedent showing that people could be held responsible for so-called ‘sextortion’ no matter where in the world they were. .

Lints said he was happy for Carol Todd “to have persevered all these years” and to have seen a verdict in his daughter’s case.

“We also hope that governments will continue to look for ways to extradite these people from ‘safe haven’ countries where they can remove the children, essentially without any repercussions,” he said.

Derek Lints’ son Daniel, 17, killed himself in February after being sexually exploited online. Derek hopes the government will continue its efforts to find and extradite the people who commit the crime. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Child protection experts also expressed relief, saying the outcome of the criminal case sends a message.

“The fact that this man was brought to Canada … is really heartening to see and important because it shows that Canada took this very seriously and wanted to make sure our justice system was engaged,” Monique St. Germain said. , General Counsel of the Winnipeg-Canadian Center for Child Protection (CCPE).

Cases of child ‘sextortion’ on the rise

The verdict also comes at a time when the problem of online sexual extortion is gaining more attention amid alarming statistics and warnings from police forces across the country.

On Thursday, the CCCP released an analysis suggesting a sharp rise in sextortion crimes targeting young people. The majority of victims are teenagers, the center said.

It opened 322 cases in July, compared to 85 in July 2021 and just 15 in July 2019. Of those 322 cases last month, 92% were for boys or young men.

The RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Crimes Center received a total of 52,306 complaints for the 2020-2021 year, a 510% increase from seven years earlier. Experts pointed to increased online activity during the COVID-19 pandemic as a contributing factor.

More can be done to tackle crime, in addition to relying on the criminal justice system, St. Germain said.

Online platforms must be responsible and do more to keep children safe, and governments must pass legislation to tackle online harm, she said.

Hunt down Amanda: The Shadow Man

Amanda Todd’s name has become synonymous with cyberbullying and loss following the BC teenager’s suicide. The Fifth Estate’s Mark Kelley reveals the untold story of his accused online stalker, the global police hunt for him, and troubling questions about why the suspect wasn’t arrested before Amanda took her own life .

“The reality is that right now we have websites and apps and other things coming out in the market without really having to have child safety considered in the design,” he said. declared St. Germain.

Society wouldn’t allow a play structure in a park to be there without proper safety precautions, and the online world shouldn’t be treated any differently, she added.

In July, the federal government announced it was resuming consultations on potential online harms legislation.

A group of academics commissioned to study the issue could not reach consensus on several issues, including whether software companies should be forced to proactively monitor or remove harmful content, whether private messages should be included in legislation and how to define “harm” itself, according to a summary report of the group’s work.

But time is running out in what is an urgent national issue, St. Germain said.

“Every day more and more children are being victimized,” she said.

“It is unacceptable that the burden of ensuring the safety of our young people on the Internet rests entirely on the shoulders of Canadian parents. Until governments and tech companies make immediate and swift changes to protect children online, history will repeat itself.

A date for Coban’s sentencing hearing will be set for Thursday.


If you or someone you know is having trouble, here’s where to get help:

This guide to Center for Addiction and Mental Health explains how to talk about suicide with someone you’re worried about.

The police also suggest the following to avoid being a victim of sexual extortion:

  • Never answer video calls from people you don’t know.

  • If you mistakenly connect with someone you don’t know live, hang up immediately.

  • Always answer video calls with the camera off until you know the identity of the caller.

Anyone who is targeted should immediately stop communicating with the suspected scammer and report them to the police. Child exploitation can be reported online at www.cybertip.ca.

Police also say victims must not comply with threats and must keep records of any correspondence with the perpetrator.

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