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Jeff Bezos Aside, Sextortion Is Way Underreported

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When Jeff Bezos went public with his accusations of blackmail against the National Enquirer on Thursday, he was hailed by many online for his courage. In a post on Medium, the Amazon CEO alleged that Enquirer representatives threatened to publish intimate photos of him unless he stopped an investigation into the tabloid’s reporting on him. Bezos refused. “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion,” he wrote, “how many people can?”

Instantly, Bezos became the most famous and powerful person to claim to be a victim of sextortion, the term often used to describe cases of extortion using intimate or sexually explicit photographs or videos. And experts quickly came out in praise of him for the way he handled the situation, calling it a “textbook” example of how best to respond to extortion.

But Bezos operated from a particularly privileged stance. Factors like age and knowledge of legislation and laws around sextortion affect a person’s ability to report sextortion and weather the fallout.

Who Gets Sextorted

Loosely defined, sextortion is when someone threatens to share intimate images of a person against their will—usually either by text, on social media, or even a webpage set up just for them—in exchange for a payout. It’s different from revenge porn, where the aggressor just shares the images to be cruel.

There’s no federal law against sextortion. It’s also not tracked as a single crime, like, say, murder, which makes it difficult to collect data about the act. Compounding the data collection problem is that many victims don’t report that it happened to them, according to experts WIRED spoke with. Like with many intimate and domestic violence issues, victims often don’t speak out for fear of being treated like they did something wrong.

Researchers with the Brookings Institute and Lawfareblog attempted to quantify the problem in 2016 by tracking criminal cases—finding 78 total nationwide—and found that the phenomenon was not just underreported but also “dramatically understudied.”

“While [sextortion is] an acknowledged problem both within law enforcement and among private advocates, no government agency maintains data on its prevalence; no private advocacy group does either,” the authors wrote, calling the cases they unearthed “the tip of a very large iceberg.”

“This stuff is wildly under prosecuted,” says Leigh Honeywell, former ACLU technologist and co-founder and CEO of TallPoppy, a company that helps companies assist employees who have been victims of sexual harassment.

The government does, however, seem to acknowledge it’s a problem. Last year, the US attorney general’s office created a Cyber-Digital Task Force to assess how well law enforcement was addressing cyber threats. In a July report, the task force concluded that sextortion and related nonconsensual pornography “may merit a federal response,” owing to the “increasingly expansive nature of these crimes, in addition to the use of new technologies.”

Most academic research of sextortion focuses on teenagers, who experts say are common victims. Their youth, inexperience, and dependence on adults makes them uniquely vulnerable, and puts them at a serious disadvantage to deal with sextortion in the way a powerful adult might.

In a study published last fall, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor of criminal justice Justin Patchin surveyed a nationally representative sample of teenagers in the US and found that five percent admitted to being the victim of sextortion, and three percent said they’d committed it themselves. A 2018 Pew survey of teen cyberbullying found that seven percent report having had images of them shared without their consent. The FBI in 2016 wrote that sextortion of minors “has become a major threat in recent years.”

As minors, teens who share sexts could be technically guilty of sending child pornography, even when sexting it voluntarily to another teen. Patchin says most of the teens he and his coauthor spoke to for their research recognized this, and feared being labeled a sex offender if it came out that they had taken nude photos or shared them.

“A sophisticated potential victim of this could flip the script and say, ‘If you have the images you’re in possession of child pornography and I could call the police on you,’ but in the vast majority of cases the teens are freaking out too much to think about that,” says Patchin. He says they’re too busy worrying: “What are my parents going to say? Am I going to get in trouble with the police, or get kicked out of school?”

Those concerns are all valid, according to Patchin. Case in point: in 2017, school administrators in Chicago questioned a 16-year-old student about a recording he had on his phone of a consensual sexual act between he and another 16-year-old, calling it “child pornography.” The boy later killed himself.

According to Patchin, minors are very infrequently charged with child pornography, especially as law enforcement grow more aware of sextortion and choose to deal with it informally rather than actually prosecuting victims who are minors. But kids don’t necessarily know that. Honeywell notes that she often sees teens in the subreddit r/legaladvice asking what to do about being sextorted, and very commonly adults respond that they should be worried about being charged with disseminating child pornography.

“There needs to be legislation saying that if you are victimized by this we are not going to prosecute you because it’s horrific and it has a really chilling effect on these literal children’s ability to get help,” says Honeywell. Patchin notes that some states—twenty, according to a survey from late last year—are beginning to pass laws protecting minors from child pornography allegations when sending consensual sexts to each other, like the Romeo and Juliet laws that make consensual sex between minors not a crime.

Knowing Your Rights

Because there isn’t one singular federal law against sextortion, an act of sextortion could under certain circumstances violate a few different laws, according to Patchin and Honeywell, like the statutes against child pornography mentioned above. Patchin notes that if the victim isn’t a minor, sextortion could be prosecuted as a classic example of criminal extortion, depending on the circumstances. He notes that if the images are actually shared, it could fall under some laws against revenge porn, which exist in some way in 41 states. (According to Patchin’s study, about “24.8 percent of males and 26.1 percent of females who were sextorted said the offender posted the sexual image of them online, while 25.5 percent of male victims and 29.6 percent of female victims said the offender sent the sexual image of them to someone else without their permission.)

As it stands, legislation varies state by state, which makes it hard for victims of sextortion to even know what their rights are. Victims can check the nonprofit WithoutMyConsent.org, run by various academics and advocates, which keeps an updated list of state and federal laws concerning the “nonconsensual distribution of sexually explicit images (as well as other forms of online harassment)” to see what options are open to them. Some of these laws would only apply if the images are actually shared.

Fear of being judged is another reason victims of this crime stay quiet. Honeywell says the most important thing a sextortion victim can do if they are experiencing this kind of blackmail is to find someone to confide in who will be understanding and in a position to help them—be that a parent, a friend, or someone else.

In Bezos’s case, he confided in the whole world. The response has been overwhelmingly supportive—and it might signal a step toward normalizing sexts.

“A lot of the quote unquote advice is to be very careful about who you send your nudes to, but that’s not very realistic. This is 2019, sexts are part of the realities of dating and being a sexual human in the modern world,” says Honeywell. “The people who should be ashamed in situations like this are the AMI’s of the world.”

If the rest of us can learn anything from Bezos becoming the world’s highest-profile alleged sextortion victim, it’s that he’s far from alone in having his sex life weaponized against him. Hopefully, victims with less fame and fortune can be treated with the same compassion he’s received.


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Riot police squads intervene as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters clash in Montreal

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People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.


People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.

  • Violence
    between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • Montreal’s
    city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
    heightened and clashes broke out.
  • Israeli
    strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
    toll in almost a week of clashes.

Montreal
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
Montreal.

The
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.

Israeli
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.

Speaking
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.

While
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.

Earlier
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.

Several
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.

‘Protesting is a right’

Although
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.

The
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

The
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.

Following
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.

She said:

Montreal is a city of peace.

Several
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.

“Terrorist
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.

Pro-Palestinian
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.


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Peter Thiel Helps Fund an App That Tells You What to Do

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“How would you feel about being able to pay to control multiple aspects of another person’s life?” asks the BBC.

“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”

When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…

NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…

Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…

Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.

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Sandpapergate will haunt Australia cricket forever: ex-bowling coach

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Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach - Gallo Images/Getty Images)


Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach – Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The 2018 ball-tampering scandal will haunt Australian cricket forever, much like the infamous underarm delivery of 40 years ago, the team’s former bowling coach David Saker said on Monday.

Saker was responding to opening batsman Cameron Bancroft suggesting that Australia’s bowlers knew about the plan in Cape Town to alter the ball which earned him a nine-month ban and rocked the game.

Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.

While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.

“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.

However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.

Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.

No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.

“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.

Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.

“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”

In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.

Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”

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Mexico’s Andrea Meza crowned Miss Universe

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Miss Universe Andrea Meza


Miss Universe Andrea Meza

UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 IS ANDREA MEZA FROM MEXICO:


UPDATE:

THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 5:

1. Mexico

2. India

3. Brazil

4. Dominican Republic

5. Peru


UPDATE:

HERE ARE THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 10 CONTESTANTS:

1. Jamaica 

2. Dominican Republic 

3. India

4. Peru 

5. Australia 

6. Puerto Rico

7. Thailand

8. Costa Rica

9. Mexico

10. Brazil


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21 IN SWIMWEAR:


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21: 

1. Columbia

2. Peru 

3. Australia 

4. France

5. Myanmar

6. Jamaica 

7. Mexico 

8. Dominican Republic 

9. USA

10. Indonesia 

11. Argentina 

12. India

13. Curaçao

14. Puerto Rico

15. Phillipines 

16. Brazil

17. Great Britain

18. Nicaragua

19. Thailand 

20. Costa Rica

21. Vietnam


 UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE SOUTH AFRICA NATASHA JOUBERT WALKS THE STAGE AT MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021:


74 contestants will compete for the title of Miss Universe on 16 May in Hollywood, Florida. 

The Miss Universe pageant takes place on 16 May in the US (02:00 to 05:00 on 17 May SA time). The show will be broadcast live on 1 Magic (DStv Channel 103) with a repeat at 21:30. 

Reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa will crown her successor at the end of the event.

Representing South Africa is Natasha Joubert, and South Africans are hoping for the “magic double” – back-to-back consecutive wins, which has only happened once before in the pageant’s history.

Natasha wowed crowds at the national costume competition last week and on Friday impressed during the preliminary round

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Miss Mexico crowned Miss Universe 2021

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By AFP Time of article published 16m ago

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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.

Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.

Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.

Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.

Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.

“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”

Natasha Joubert, Miss Universe South Africa 2020 competes on stage in Ema Savahl swimwear during the MISS UNIVERSE® Preliminary Competition.

She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”

Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.

Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.

Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”

“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.

The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”

The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.

In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.

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