FBI Warns of Online Groups Forcing Minors into Self-Harm, Explicit Content, and Suicide
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning on Tuesday regarding violent organized crime groups operating online. These groups employ coercive tactics to compel minors into engaging in acts of self-harm, public suicide, and the creation of explicit content, including child sex abuse material.
Using threats, blackmail, and manipulation, these groups exert control over their victims, pressuring them to record or live-stream acts of self-harm, explicit behavior, or even suicide. The recorded material is then shared within the groups to further extort and manipulate the victims.
These groups operate on platforms such as social media sites and mobile applications. To gain admission, potential 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 FBI said.
They target vulnerable minors aged eight to 17, with a particular focus on LGBTQ+ youth, racial minorities, and those struggling with mental health issues like depression and suicidal tendencies.
The primary motivation behind these activities is to gain notoriety and elevate their status within dark online communities.
By employing fear as a tool, these groups effectively control their victims, often threatening to share explicit content with the victims' loved ones or post it on the internet.
According to the FBI, some members even force minors to commit suicide on live-stream for their own entertainment and fame.
The FBI has identified several of these violent online groups, including 676, 764, CVLT, Court, Kaskar, Harm Nation, Leak Society, and H3ll.
However, U.S. authorities emphasize that these groups are constantly evolving and creating subgroups under different aliases.
These violent online groups heavily rely on extortion and blackmail to achieve their goals. U.S. authorities report that they employ tactics like SWATting and doxxing.
SWATting refers to the act of making fake emergency calls that deceive armed police units into responding to a specific location.
Doxxing involves publicly exposing and sharing personal information about individuals for harmful purposes.
In June 2023, 75 United Nations countries called for the immediate removal of child sexual abuse materials from the internet.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organized a meeting of experts in Vienna on June 26-27, 2023.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the main objectives of the meeting were to identify existing gaps and limitations in current approaches to combating online child sexual abuse materials, develop strategies, and implement a comprehensive plan to prevent the re-upload of abusive material.
"We are in a battle to be seen as more than files that are uploaded and downloaded again and again, as more than images on a device or computer screen, as more than a paycheck to take to the bank. We want tech companies to believe our stories, see our pain, and act for no other reason than it is the right thing to do," said a survivor who wishes to remain anonymous when speaking to the UK Government.