Video Games And Online Chats Are ‘Hunting Grounds’ For Sexual Predators
Video games and online chats have become a “hunting ground” for sexual predators and other bad actors, placing millions of innocent children and teens at risk of being targeted in the privacy of their own homes without parents or guardians knowing.
Reports of abuse are emerging across the U.S. with an unprecedented frequency as some predators use video games to target thousands of victims, according to a review of prosecutions, court records, law enforcement reports, and academic studies.
The criminals pose as children and gradually build trust with victims, before duping them into sharing sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves.
The perpetrators then use these photos and videos to blackmail the children into doing their bidding.
The tech industry has made a tepid effort to combat this explosion of child sexual abuse imagery on the internet, according to a New York Times report, which also showed that popular gaming companies have created spaces that allow adults and children to interact with few safeguards.
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“Our society says we’re going to protect kids in the physical world, but we’ve yet to see that in the same way on the digital side,” Steven J. Grocki, who leads the child exploitation and obscenity section at the Justice Department, told The New York Times.
A majority of “sextortion” (sexual extortion) cases go unreported to the authorities despite the number of such crimes in the U.S. rising from just 50 six years ago to over 1,500 in 2018.