The Internet is (for the most part) a magical place. You can get virtual hugs from the nicest place on the Internet, make your pet鈥檚 Instagram famous聽and generally just do聽anything聽you need to do quicker and easier than ten years ago.聽But聽while the Internet is getting safer, thanks to things like quantum Internet technology, there are still a ton of risks online, particularly for younger people. A new study from the Brookings Institute finds that sextortion 鈥 the practice of using personal information like photos to lure someone into providing more explicit photos and video 鈥 is a lot more common than you think. Yikes.

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鈥淚t鈥檚 a new form of sexual assault because you can do it without being in the person鈥檚 presence and you can do it at scale,鈥 researcher Benjamin Wittes says about sextortion during a webcast about the study, according to CNN Money.

Benjamin and his team studied 78 cases of sextortion with more than 3,000 victims, and found that 78 percent of the victims were minors and all of the perpetrators were male. He also predicted聽that there could be more than 6,000 sextortion victims dealing with this problem聽right now, pointing out that while child pornography laws protect the majority of sextortion victims, those who aren鈥檛 minors generally have a difficult time finding legal protection. Double yikes.

鈥淚t鈥檚 the tip of a much, much larger iceberg. We are certain that the data is incomplete鈥. that the problem is more widespread than we are able to capture,鈥 he said. 鈥淚t鈥檚 a remarkably common form of sex crime鈥 These are cases of remote coercion of sex in a fashion that鈥檚 closer to a sexual assault than it is to anything you would call innocent.鈥

Super scary. Awareness is the first step toward protecting yourself, so tell your friends and family about this disturbing new trend ASAP.

How do you protect yourself from Internet creeps? Tweet us your thoughts @BritandCo.聽

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