INHOPE at IGF, Geneva

January 25, 2018

INHOPE participated in a workshop on Sextortion, “Out of my Hands,” at the IGF in December. This was a follow up from the workshop in 2016, where the problem of financial and sexual sextortion was discussed. Hotlines see increasing amounts of material that has resulted from sextortion in the reports they receive from the public. During the workshop the term 'sextortion' was defined and the criminal features of the term were underlined, especially towards children and women. The main aim of the session was to explore key emerging technology, user centered action being deployed by stakeholders to counteract sextortion and identify challenges and opportunities. 

An introductory video, prepared by EUROPOL, outlined how individuals become victims to sextortionists. Mr Gregory Mounier, Head of Outreach and Support at the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (EUROPOL) then elaborated on the work they do with victims. Male victims were provided the material for financial gain whereas women and children were exploited for more material. The shame felt by the victims lowered the reporting rates.

The first question posed was, 'Can AI, blockchain or encryption based technology enable an effective response to sextortion?' Ms. Karuna Nair, Facebook's Global Safety Programs Manager explained how Facebook approaches safety. She appealed to experts to collaborate since Facebook does not specialise in the problem. Ms. Semanur Karaman, Co-ordinator Political Participation, Gender and Tech at Tactical Tech Collective, spoke of her experiences working with politically active women who suffer online violence and the deep distrust they have for online platforms. Mr Walid Al Saqaf, Vice Chair at ISOC Blockchain Special Interest Group, briefly explained how blockchain technology works. Mr Claudio Lucena, Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University, mentioned how the idea of automated recognition of content is important and the ease of deploying this software.

Ms Arda Gerkens, President of INHOPE and Director of the Dutch Hotline and Senator, started by mentioning some of the solutions to gaining control of personal content. She called for a collaborative approach to solving the issue as raising awareness is critical. Many parents don’t realize that children as young as 6 are being sextorted. She also pointed out that a lot can be done by using hashes to prevent further spreading of the material and that INHOPE has a lot of experience in this field. Mounier stated that individuals should avoid having images online which can be used against them while a participant pointed out how telling people not to engage in certain behaviour usually results in the opposite. Gerkens highlighted the need to avoid victim blaming as sextortion victims do not always send or upload their content themselves; images are also made public or used for extortion through hacks and leaks.

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