The FBI issued a warning to Americans that “malicious actors” are using artificial intelligence (AI) and deepfakes to manipulate photos and videos and trap victims into so-called sextortion schemes.

“Technology advancements are continuously improving the quality, customizability, and accessibility of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled content creation,” the FBI said in its public service announcement. “The FBI continues to receive reports from victims, including minor children and non-consenting adults, whose photos or videos were altered into explicit content. The photos or videos are then publicly circulated on social media or pornographic websites, for the purpose of harassing victims or sextortion schemes.”

A 2022 film called “Sextortion” describes the crime as “the hidden pandemic.” (AURORIS MEDIA)

Sextortion is defined by the FBI as the coercion of victims into “providing sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves, then threatening to share them publicly or with the victim’s family and friends” which is motivated by factors like the “desire for more illicit content, financial gain, or to bully and harass others.”

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In April, FBI’s Child Exploitation-Human Trafficking Task Force in Boston warned parents about the increasing number of targeted attacks against young boys who are coerced into producing sexual images and videos by adults posing as young girls to then extort them for money.

There has been a significant uptick in nationally reported sextortion cases, which have increased 322% between February 2022 and February 2023 because of AI-doctored images, according to the FBI. At least a dozen sextortion-related suicides have been reported across the country.

The FBI’s Stop Sextortion campaign seeks to inform kids and caregivers about this growing crime involving young people who are coerced into creating explicit content by an adult online. (FBI)

The perpetrators deploy content manipulation technology using photos and videos from a victim’s social media account, the internet or from the victim themselves, according to the FBI. The content is then used to create sexually charged images using a victim’s image and likeness that is shared online, including on social media and pornographic websites.

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Victims are sent the photos or videos as a means for extortion or harassment and once the content is circulated online, it can be difficult to prevent the proliferation of the content or facilitate its removal.

To prevent getting involved in a sextortion scheme, the FBI urges people to “exercise caution” when posting or messaging photos, videos, or other personal information online, including on social media sites and dating apps.

In April, FBI’s Child Exploitation-Human Trafficking Task Force in Boston warned parents about the increasing number of targeted attacks against young boys who are coerced into producing sexual images and videos by adults posing as young girls to then extort them for money. (OneDoor Studios)

“Although seemingly innocuous when posted or shared, the images and videos can provide malicious actors an abundant supply of content to exploit for criminal activity,” the FBI wrote in its statement. “Advancements in content creation technology and accessible personal images online present new opportunities for malicious actors to find and target victims. This leaves them vulnerable to embarrassment, harassment, extortion, financial loss, or continued long-term re-victimization.”

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In addition, the FBI said children should be taught the risks associated with posting online and have their online activity monitored. Individuals are instructed to also run search results on themselves and their children, apply privacy settings on social media accounts, use complex passwords and multi-factor authentication, and know a platform’s privacy and data sharing policies before uploading or sharing content.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provides a free service known as “Take It Down” that could help victims remove or stop the online sharing of nude or sexually explicit content of minors.

NYNNC is a Production Assistant with Fox News Digital. 

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