Intimate Images, Nudes, Sexting, Deepfakes, and Sugaring

Far too often, the language and research surrounding sexting can be very confusing to parents and youth. The list of definitions below is how we classify and use terminology specific to this chapter. We believe these are the most accurate and clear definitions of these commonly used terms.

Sexting

Sexual communication of any kind between technological devices. These behaviors include both sexual messages that may or may not include nude imagery depicting partially naked or fully nude genitalia.

Nudes & Intimate Images

Visual media either photograph or video that contains an individual’s genitalia exposed.

Sextortion

Threats, or actions of distributing nude/intimate images that are weaponized for the purposes of extortion and blackmail for financial, social, and other personal gains.

Distribution of Intimate Images

Knowingly publishing, distributing, transmitting, selling, making available, or advertising an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent.

Pornography

Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity used in the entertainment industry.

 

Current Data on Sexting and Sharing Nudes

In 2023, Media Smarts Canada found that 9% of teens (gr 7-11) they interviewed had sent a sext and that 38% stated that the sext that they sent, with consent and trust, did not stay private and went public.http://bit.ly/40rdlo4 

 Media Smart Canada also found:

  • only 3% sent a nude to someone they didn’t know
  • 16% youth say they received a sext that was forwarded to them by someone else 
  • 29% of youth say they have forwarded a sext

However, in 2019 some good academic peer-reviewed research here in Canada https://bit.ly/3NeI80w involving 2,537 youth between the ages of 14 to 17 years of age found:

  • 14.4% of teens sent a sexual picture, and

  • 27.0% of teens received a sexual picture

This research supports our message, as well as the message that we anecdotally hear from teens, that although the sending of nudes by teens is a reality, it is not at the epidemic level that many adults, parents, caregivers, educators, and the media believe it to be.

The difference between “sexting” and “nudes” is quite different and should indicate caution when reading news reports about teen sexting, as most reports use the definition of “sext” broadly as highlighted in the above definitions. When it actually comes to nudes, numbers are much lower. In addition, of those teens who are sending nudes, it often occurs with someone who the teen knows, loves, or trusts.

According to academic researchers Emily Weinstein and Carrie James, in their book “Behind Their Screens”  teens are being asked for intimate images from 4 specific sources:

  1. Significant others with whom they are in a committed relationship
  2. Earlier-stage romantic interests – others who they know and are flirting with
  3. People who they just considered a friend or acquaintance, and
  4. Strangers

This is also supported in the research – in a 2022 report from Stats Canada https://bit.ly/3wqOSBF, those who were arrested for the re-distribution of an intimate image amongst youth fell in one of four categories::

  • 28% were an intimate partner

  • 21% were a friend

  • 36% were a casual acquaintance

  • Only 11% were a stranger

When we looked at the reasons why teens will send nudes we were able to identify 5 reasons:

  1. Maladaptive attention-seeking behaviour – especially with pre-teens and younger teens
  2. Relationship building – older teens and adults
  3. Personal gain to obtain property, goods, money by selling or exchanging intimate images or videos
  4. Peer Pressure – especially in a relationship
  5. Tricked or criminally extorted

 

Canadian Law

Many parents believe that sending an intimate image is illegal. However, in two Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decisions; R vs Sharp 2001 and R vs Barbash 2015, the court recognized that it is not illegal in Canada for two consenting teenagers, under the age of 18, in a private, consensual non-exploitive relationship to possess or carry nude imagery of one another for personal use; this is commonly referred to the “Private Use Exception.” The Private Use Exception was created under the protection of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

So, to be clear for those reading this book, if the distribution of an intimate image is taking place between two consenting teens under the age of 18 years who are in a legal non-exploitive relationship, and the consensual image is strictly kept private within the relationship, then the police and the courts will not get involved. Canada is a very unique country in how its laws and case law rulings have addressed nudes and sexting amongst teens.

These Supreme Court rulings have also been applied in provincial courts. In the situation of teens sending and receiving images with technology case (R. v. M.B., 2016 BCCA 476) provides further interpretation on teen “sexting”

[80] Further, I agree with the trial judge that s.163.1, as it was interpreted in Sharpe, does not prevent teenagers from “sexting”. They can readily do so provided that they keep intimate images or videos of themselves strictly for private use such that they come within the Sharpe exception. Any question concerning the breadth of these exceptions is relevant to s.7 of the Charter and not to s.15.

 

Age of Consent in Canada:

In a 2022 Canadian national survey undertaken for the Canadian Women’s Foundation, they  found “that when put to the test, a majority (55%) of Canadians do not meet the legal threshold in understanding what constitutes “consent” when it comes to sexual activity.”

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/6405fa1b78abf0232468c763/t/64e3b8f71e62c6621a212f02/1692645623348/Sexual%2Bconsent%2B11%2B22%2B22.pdf

In Canada, when someone is 16 years of age, they are able to consent to sexual activity with a person who is 14 years of age or older. The only exception would be when the older person is in a position of power, trust,  or authority such as a  teacher,  babysitter,  police officer,  doctor, etc. Although the age of consent is 16, there are what are known as “close-in-age exceptions” that apply to only teens who are 14 and 15 years:

When a teen is 14 or 15 years old they are able to consent to sexual activity with a person who is LESS than 5 years older than them.

14-years-old:

  • Can consent to sexual activity with a teen up to the age of 18.

15-years-old:

  • Can consent to sexual activity with someone up to the age of 19.

See the Canadian Department of Justice website for source information and law https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/other-autre/clp/faq.html

 

Close in Age Peer Experimentation Exceptions

  • Applies only to 12 and13-year-olds
  • When someone is 12 or 13 years old, they are able to consent to sexual activity with a person who is LESS than 2 years older than them.

12-years-old:

  • Can consent to sexual activity with someone up to the age of 13.

13-years old:

  • Can consent to sexual activity with someone up to the age of 14.

 

Here’s an in-depth video we did on consent as it applies to Canadian law

 

Criminal Non-Consensual Distribution of Intimate Images:

When we looked at the reasons why a person under the age of 18 would non-consensually  redistribute an intimate image or video, we were able to identify three reasons:

  1. Boasting rights with peers – “look at how many nudes I have”
  2. What they believe to be a form of humor directed at another person
  3. As a weapon or threat after a breakup

If an intimate image or video, taken without consent, is distributed beyond the privacy of a legal relationship, then there are two sections of the Criminal Code of Canada that could apply where a teen or adult could be arrested:

Section163.1 CCC “child pornography “refers to any written or visual representation, whether photographic, files, or video made by any mechanical or electronic means that:

  • Shows or depicts a person who is, or appears to be under the age of 18engaging in (or depicted as engaging in) explicit sexual activity.
  • Shows its dominant characteristic as the depiction of a sexual organ or the anal area of a person under the age of 18years.
  • Advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of 18years.

Section 163.1 (4) Producing/Possession/Distribution and 163.1 (4.1) Accessing

  • The charge is against the person who distributes the photo, not the person who creates it

If convicted under this section of the CCC, a teen would also be required to register with the National Sex Registry which use to be a  designation and a requirement for life. However, in October of 2022, the Supreme Court of Canada declared a lifetime designation unconstitutional, and mandatory registration of all sex offenders with more than one conviction goes too far. The court has given the federal government a year to rewrite its legislation before the clause on the mandatory listing is struck down, but registering for a specific amount of time will still be allowed in specific cases. The requirement for lifetime listing is quashed immediately.

It is important that the reader understands that Canadian law enforcement is very hesitant about charging a teen under these sections of the Criminal Code.  Also, the intent and spirit of these sections of the criminal code were designed to deal with pedophiles and not teens who are often using technology to sexually experiment.

In 2014, the Canadian government enacted a new law that is known as the Non-Consensual Distribution of Intimate Images Law:

SectionCCC162.1(1) Non-Consensual Distribution of Intimate Images.

Everyone who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available, or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or acts recklessly as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty of…

  • an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or
  • an offence punishable on summary conviction.

(2) In this section, intimate image means a visual recording of a person made by any means including a photographic, film, or video recording, in which the person is nude, is exposing their genital organs or anal region, or their breasts, or is engaged in explicit sexual activity;

(b) in respect of which, at the time of the recording, there were circumstances that gave rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy; and

(c) in respect of which the person depicted retains a reasonable expectation of privacy at the time the offence is committed.

This new section of the Criminal Code basically says that it doesn’t matter if you are over or under the age of 18; if you send, show, or distribute an intimate image or video outside of a  legal relationship without the consent of the person(s) in that picture or video, then you can be arrested, charged, and convicted and even go to jail for a maximum of 5 years. Unlike section 163 CCC, if convicted under section 162.1(1) CCC, a teen, or even an adult, will not have to register with a sex registry. This new section of the Criminal Code has now become the primary section that law enforcement will use when a person weaponizes an intimate image or video that is used against another person no matter the age. Although we don’t like the name, many in Canada know this new section as the “Revenge Porn” section of the Criminal Code.

We also think it is important to note that depending upon the circumstances of the distribution, police may elect to proceed by way of an external restorative justice process rather than a court process. This is something that we as a company fully endorse in reasonable circumstances.

 

USA Laws Specific To Sexting From State To State:

Unlike Canada where we have one Criminal Code that applies equally to every province and territory, in the United States, each state has its own law specific to sexting that can differ from state to state. One of the best resources we have found that breaks down each state law comes from our friends at the USA-based Cyberbullying Research Center https://cyberbullying.org/?s=sexting+laws

So now that we have a clearer picture of where the current Canadian and USA criminal case law stands on the issue of the distribution of an intimate image or video, what should a parent do when a student discloses the non-consensual distribution of an intimate image to them?

 

Steps to Take When Images Are Distributed or Threatened To Be Distributed

Once a problematic sexting instance has been brought to your attention, there are various steps to take, and situation-dependent circumstances to consider when helping your child.

Step #1: Don’t Panic and Assess the Situation:

  • Do not over-react. Remember your child needs your support and not your criticism
  • Does the picture or video show nudity? If so, how much?
  • Does the picture or video show a youth’s genital organs, anal region, and/or breast/nipple? Is your child engaged in explicit sexual activity?
  • Is the image sexualized, showing skin, but still covering a student’s genital organs, anal region, or a breast/nipple – e.g. a bathing suit-  and not depicting students engaged in explicit sexual activity
  • Where has the picture or video been posted?
  • Who do you believe has the picture or video?

Often parents and teens believe that a picture that shows a bra and/or underwear is a “nude,” when legally, it is not. Asking the right questions is important to help determine the right course of action. It is important for your child to know not to share the fact that they have done so with others at the school.

If the images do not fall under the category of nudes, they may still be considered criminal in nature depending on how they are being used by the other person. Consulting with your local police department would be important

Step #2: Determine Legality

After asking the right questions, if you are satisfied that the situation does involve nudes/intimate images, you now need to determine the legality of those images in how they are being possessed or used. If a teen is seeking help, chances are they either no longer consent to the intimate image(s) being possessed and/or someone has distributed the image(s) beyond the privacy of a relationship. As a reminder, if the images fall under the following parameters, the Supreme Court has granted protection:

Legal if:

  • Consenting legal ages
  • Both parties’ consent to the image
  • Nothing malicious is happening
  • No power imbalance (authority)
  • Image(s) have been kept strictly private between both parties

If the situation consists of either a violation of consenting legal ages, malice, power imbalance (authority), or distribution outside of the relationship’s privacy, take immediate action and move on to Step 3.

However, if the teen simply no longer consents to the image being possessed, it would not yet be considered a criminal matter, as the teen needs to inform the other person they withdraw their consent for the image(s) to be possessed, and further request that they need to be deleted. This is where our “Intimate Image Deletion Notice” that we have designed would be used:

https://thewhitehatter.ca/intimate-image-deletion-notice/  .  

If the other person does not acknowledge the deletion of the intimate images, makes threats, has distributed the image, or if there is credible evidence they have not deleted it, can now become a criminal matter.

Step #3: Connecting with Police

Call the police and provide them with a verbal synopsis of the who, what, where, how, and why of what you have learned and the actions you have taken. Also, the police will want to speak directly with your child who brought this issue to your attention.

Step #4: Consider Notifying The School

This is especially important if there is a nexus to the school in any way, such as the distribution or accessing/viewing of the intimate image by others at the school, or on school property. Remember, you do not have to wait for the police investigation to conclude to initiate a School Act investigation. A police investigation is a criminal process; a School Act investigation is a civil process, and both have different investigational standards and possible outcomes. It is not uncommon not to have enough grounds legally for the police to proceed with a criminal charge, but under the School Act, there is the ability to hand out consequences for actions, which could also include a school-based restorative justice process.

 

Sext-Ed: An Asymmetrical Risk Mitigation Approach

Having presented to over 630,000 teens from across Canada and the US, the topic of sending nudes or what adults call “sexting” – or in Canadian law is called the “distribution of intimate images”- is a hot topic of concern for many adults and teens alike. Nudes are nothing new, just go to any art museum and you will see that they have been around for centuries. However, what has changed is the ease for a teen to create and distribute their own nudes via technology.

As the reader can appreciate, although a real concern for sure, and as mentioned earlier in this chapter, sexting is not at the epidemic level that traditional media, and some adults, like to believe.

In many of the schools that we visit, the tact that many take specific to educating pre-teens and teens on this topic is an “abstinence” and “fear-based” educational approach; in other words, “don’t send nudes because if you do you will be arrested.” However, there is some fantastic research out there that shows us that the message of abstinence, or threatening arrest, doesn’t work so well. https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(17)30297-5/fulltext  Also, here’s a great YouTube video from a teen about the failures of teaching abstinence-based programs to their generation that is evidence-based https://youtu.be/PrU8ePlykJU

Having researched this issue for several years now, we believe there are several challenges to teaching an abstinence-based approach to sexting. Often, such abstinence-based programs place a strong emphasis on the criminal consequences of sexting, which can shut down the avenues of support and recourse when a nude is non-consensually shared with others. Why? Because many teens will not report such an incident to the police, or another person in authority, for fear of being arrested. The Crimes Against Children Research Centre reported that only 16% of teens whose intimate image was weaponized contacted the police or a person in authority. Compounding this concern is the fact that we also find that the Canadian law specific to sexting is often misunderstood and incorrectly shared with students in the hopes of scaring teens not to sext.

We believe that we must meet young people where they are in their sexual development in today’s “onlife” world, without judgment, and this is especially important for teens who are now being sextorted because of an intimate image. Like it or not, human intimacy is changing, and there may be times in a teen’s life where thoughts and considerations of sending an intimate image will be a reality.

It’s our opinion that we need to move away from the abstinence/criminal centric approach that is often taken when it comes to sexting and move to a more asymmetrical, holistic, hybrid educational/ risk mitigation approach, combined with a criminalization message where reasonable and appropriate to do so. The onlife world is changing societal norms around intimacy. Is sexting always harmful? No. Is it always risky? Absolutely. We believe that there are no software, hardware, or criminal fixes to this challenge. We believe that age-appropriate psychosocial approaches are needed to share what the risks are specific to sexting, and what teens can do to help minimize those risks.

The topic of sexting is more than just sending texts, pictures, or videos; it’s also about consent, trust, and relationship abuse in all its forms. Rather than just concentrating on those teens who send nudes, we need to focus more on those who weaponize intimate images that have been sent to them with trust and consent. In other words, we need to stop victim-blaming/shaming! We also need to empower and educate bystanders who are forwarded or shown these intimate images outside of a relationship. Teens need to understand that such a breach of trust will not be tolerated and is illegal in Canada. We also need to educate the police, educators, and parents on how to sensitively respond to a disclosure by a teen who comes forward to report that an intimate image that they sent has been weaponized, and is now being distributed without their consent.

Admittingly, we use to teach an abstinence-based approach to sexting, but for the past 8 years, at the high school level, we have now taken more of a hybrid abstinence/risk mitigation approach that we developed with the help of teens. Yes, we still share and stress that it is more desirable to not share an intimate image with others given that in 42% of incidents they get reposted. However, if they do, we then provide a harm reduction framework for their consideration to help reduce harm should the pictures become public.

By following this risk mitigation protocol, if the image does go public, then your teen has “deniability”, they can say that’s not me that is someone else, which substantially reduces the emotional, psychological, physical, and social harm to youth.

#1: Don’t do it, remember in Canada 42% of nudes get posted publicly – they often don’t stay private. However, if you are one of the few teens who will not heed this first and most important rule then,

#2: Make sure your face is not in the picture. This will help provide deniability if the picture becomes public.

#3: Make sure there are no scars, tattoos, birthmarks, or jewelry in the pictures that are specific to you. Again, this helps to provide deniability if the picture becomes public.

#4: Make sure that there is no identifiable clothing, like a school shirt, that is visible and/or is specific to you. Again, this helps to provide deniability if the picture becomes public.

#5: Make sure the background is neutral and not taken in your bedroom or your bathroom that can be identified back to you.

#6: Turn off the automatic backup of photos on your device so that pictures are not uploaded to a file or the cloud. You want to prevent external access by others.

#7: Scrub all meta-data from the picture, such as the longitude and latitude of where the picture was taken or the type of device used to take the picture. This helps to protect the location of where you live.

#8: Lock your device and any file apps so that others who may access your phone will not have the ability to access any pictures on your device that they could copy/forward to others.

#9: Make sure your “Find My Device” application on your phone is turned on. If you have forgotten to lock your phone and you have misplaced or lost it, you can now remotely wipe any pictures that are on the phone.

#10: Use a translucent watermark of the name of the person that you are sending the nude to, and hide it in the picture so that it is not visible. There are several free apps on the market that will allow you to do this such as “PS Express”. By taking this step, if the person you sent the picture to now sends this picture to others without your permission, there is a covert digital bread crumb that will help the police to prove that the suspect distributed the picture.

#11: Make sure that you attach a message to the picture that says, “Not to Be Shared”. Here in Canada, this will help police with proving the offence of “Non-Consensual Distribution of An Intimate Image” if the receiver does send it to others outside of a relationship without your consent.

#12: Play copyrighted music in the background of any intimate videos sent.  Given that many (not all) popular social media sights are now using algorithms that do not allow videos that have embedded copyrighted music from being posted, it helps to reduce the risk of a video going viral on their platforms.

We know that for some parents and caregivers, you will not agree with the above-noted framework, and we respect your opinion as a parent. However, we hope that most parents and caregivers will understand that we live in a different world and if our goal is to reduce harm to teens, then we need to be approaching such challenges in a way that ties into where they are in today’s onlife world, is relevant to their life, and appeals to their intelligence and experience. We believe that this will help teens to make good onlife decisions when it comes to sexting. There is no such thing as “safe sexting,” but we can make it safer by reducing harm. This approach is also something that is supported in the academic research:

https://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(19)30509-9/fulltext

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-023-02728-x

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/13634607241237675

 

Parent Tip 

Remember, will the above-noted risk mitigation approach to intimate images and videos “stop” the risks if they become public – “NO” –  WIll it “reduce” the risks “ABSOLUTELY” 

 

A Tool to Help Cope with Unsolicited Requests For Nudes:

We also believe that an important component of dealing with this challenge is providing teens with tools and resources to help deal with the ever-increasing pressure to provide nudes. In our presentations, we ask teen girls how many of them have been asked for a nude. Consistently, 20-30% of their hands will go up. Often these teens tell us that such requests put them into a lose/lose situation. If they send a nude and it becomes public, they are shamed and called a “hoe,” “slut,” or “thot.” If they don’t send a nude, then they are shamed and called a “prude,” “ice queen,” or “tease.” This is yet another reason why talking about sexism with teens is so important in today’s discussions surrounding healthy human sexuality.

Hearing this concern, we here at The White Hatter initiated a project to provide teens with a tool to help combat unsolicited requests for nudes that we call the “No, It’s Rude to Ask for A Nude” project. Having presented to hundreds of thousands of teens from across North America, we have heard their message loud and clear; they really hate the fact that people who they usually know, and sometimes people they don’t know,  asking them to send nudes. As a result, we here at The White Hatter team wanted to provide students with a digital tool that they can use to help send a message to the solicitor that what they are asking for is inappropriate, and sometimes even criminal. These actions could result in punitive measures if they don’t stop. This digital tool is a digital image that contains this important message: https://www.thewhitehatter.ca/no-its-rude-to-ask-for-a-nude

We believe that “NO” is a complete sentence with no room for negotiation—a message this image clearly depicts. We also believe that the warning, “I’ve screen captured your message as evidence if needed” sends a clear message to the person requesting the nude that if asked again, there could be consequences to their request including being arrested for “Criminal Harassment” or “Luring” under the Criminal Code of Canada. Many teens are unaware of this fact and when we share this in our presentations, it is always interesting to see how many jaws drop.

We encourage teens to copy or download a high-resolution version of our “No It’s Rude To Ask For A Nude” image to their photo album on their phone so that they can send it in a return message to a person who asks for a nude.

A Tool to Help Cope with Unsolicited Nudes Being Sent

We have also heard loud and clear that teens are getting sick and tired of unsolicited pictures of genitalia, commonly known as a “Dick Pic” being sent to them.

In fact, research has shown https://bit.ly/3fYPw1v 

“sexual attention from unknown males often began at a very young age (12-14 years). The harassment took many forms, including inappropriate sexual comments on social media posts, explicit photos of male genitalia, and solicitations for sex.”

Often, we hear from teens that these types of images are just something you have to get used to. NO! they are not something that one has to get used to, and in fact, such messages/images can be illegal if sent unsolicited. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, such a message could be considered an “Indecent Communication”. Also, if the picture is actually a picture of the person’s genitalia, and that person is under the age of 18, then it could also be classified as the “Production and Distribution of Child Pornography” under the Criminal Code of Canada.

To help students fight back against this, much like the “No! It’s Rude To Ask For A Nude” image tool we developed, we have now designed a similar image tool that teens can send to a person who sends an unsolicited dick pic.

Download this picture into a phone photo album and use it when appropriate to do so.

We need to change that narrative where teens think it’s acceptable or even funny to send unsolicited nudes and dick pics to another person. Some will say, “What’s the big deal, it’s only boys being boys” NO! – such behaviour only exacerbates systemic sexism, objectification, toxic masculinity, and gendered risks of harm and is in fact illegal everywhere in Canada! Also, these messages can have a significant negative impact on a teen’s emotional, psychological, physical, and social well-being. It’s not funny, it is a crime! By sending this image and screen capturing the original message, it helps the police deal with this issue if the person ignores the warning and sends a second picture – it creates an evidence trail needed for an arrest where appropriate and reasonable to do so.

Remember, there is no technological/criminal-centric fix to the harmful non-consensual distribution of intimate images. Yes, we often find that discussions surrounding this topic primarily concentrate on abstinence, criminalization, and shaming, but such discussions do not resonate with today’s teens and their online world. We have found that the criminalization and shaming often shut down paths for teens when it comes to support and recourse if an intimate image has been non-consensually shared; this is why many teens will not come forward to report such an incident to parents, teachers, or the police. We should move away from abstinence/criminalization approaches to this topic, and start to concentrate on educational efforts surrounding consent, trust, relationship abuse, and discussions surrounding sexism. We believe that a “hybrid” abstinence/harm-reduction approach is what is needed to truly reduce harm to our teens on this important topic.

 

DeepFakes, Nudification, & Gender-Based Image Tech Violence

We here at the White Hatter, much like other online safety advocates, have been warning about how “deepfake” technology can be used as a gender-based weapon to target those who identify as female, and yes, even those who identify as male. Here are two articles we have written on this topic:

 

Alert for Parents, Caregivers, Educators, and Law Enforcement: Concerning Apps Utilizing AI pose Risks To Youth and Adults

Alert for Parents, Caregivers, Educators, and Law Enforcement: Concerning Apps Utilizing AI Pose Risks to Youth and Adults

 

Battling AI-Driven Deepfake Nudes Demands Swift Action, Collaboration, & A Change In The Selfied Culture in Canada

Battling AI-Driven Deepfake Nudes Demands Swift Action, Collaboration, & A Change In The Selfie Culture in Canada

 

Deepfake technology allows the power of computer-based artificial intelligence (AI) to either:

  1. Morph a face into a picture or video (like porn). Think photoshop with a push of a button, or
  2. Apps and software that allow a user to digitally remove clothing from a picture and replace it with a very real-looking AI-generated rendering of what it believes the person would look like nude.

Both are becoming known as “deepfakes” or “nudification” apps.

Here’s an investigative article that Brandon did where he actually tested several deepfake apps that are available online

DeepNudes: Undressing AI-Generated Intimate Image Abuse Material

Here’s a great example of a deepfake video (no nudity) where they use the likeness of Tom Cruise to demonstrate its capabilities. After watching this video, we believe you will have a better understanding of how this technology could be used when it comes to gender-based image violence.

https://youtu.be/iyiOVUbsPcM

In the recent past, we here at the White Hatter have helped both youth and adults deal with pictures where their face was “photoshopped” into a porn picture (not a video) which were then published and distributed as a weapon.  In those cases, using forensic software, we were able to confirm that the picture had been digitally altered. What makes the new deepfake and nudification technology challenging, unless really expensive forensic technology is used, it can be very hard to determine if a morphed picture or video is real or not.  Unfortunately, to the average person (teen) who views these morphed pictures or videos, it will appear to be very real. In fact, research has shown that targets of this kind of tech violence can “….experience harms similar to those suffered by survivors of sexual assault including trust issues, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health effects” https://bit.ly/3oEzI80  Once the weaponized deepfake is out there publicly, the intended emotional, psychological, physical, and social damage to its target is done.

Some will say that the weaponized use of deepfake and nudification software is nothing more than moral-based panic, and not something that is actually taking place.  As a licenced online investigative company, we can share with you that such technology is being weaponized, shared, and used; case in point – the “Incel” movement.

What is an “Incel” (involuntary celibate)? According to Oxford Dictionary, an Incel is:

“a member of an online community of young men who consider themselves unable to attract women sexually, typically associated with views that are hostile toward women and men who are sexually active.”

Incels hate those who identify as female, and will often use technology to target them.  Incels are not just adults, we here at the White Hatter have helped one group of Canadian professionals who were dealing with a teen Incel movement in their jurisdiction.

Here is a discussion from an Incel forum that we located, where participants are actually sharing links to deepfake and nudification technology so that others in their movement can use it as a weapon.

How To Help Identify A Person Who May Be Using Deepfake Technology:

Given we know that some online predators and exploiters are using deep fake technology to trick youth during the luring grooming process, here’s a great article that discusses countermeasures if the person is using such technology  (things could change in the future). When streaming with a person you have just met online, have them #1 turn their head 90 degrees and #2 have the person move their hand in front of their face (less reliable) –  in both strategies a user will commonly see significant visible distortion that is a clue to let you know the person you are interacting with may be using deepfake tech – here’s the reason why https://metaphysic.ai/to-uncover-a-deepfake-video-call-ask-the-caller-to-turn-sideways/  If the other person does not want to comply with your requests, DANGER, DANGER, DANGER!

The Law:

Given that deepfake and nudification technology is fairly new, it has not been tested in the Canadian courts specific to its legal consequences.  However, we do believe that there are both criminal and civil remedies that could be applied in these cases:

Criminal Code Canada:

Although there are no laws in Canada specific to deepfake and nudification technology, we believe that the following sections of the Criminal Code could be used to hold those who sexually weaponize this type of technology criminally accountable:

  • If the victim is under the age of 18, and their face was morphed into a pornographic picture or video that is made public, there is Case Law where the accused can be arrested, charged, and convicted for the possession, creation, and distribution of Child Pornography (R v H(C), 2010 ONCJ 270, R v Butler,2011 NLTD(G)5, D(R) v S(G), 2011 BCSC 1118)
  • In 2015 a new law, the non-consensual distribution of an intimate image was created (sec 162.1(1) Criminal Code) “Everyone who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct” Again, this law has not been tested in Canadian courts specific to a deepfake, but we do think it has a good chance that it would survive a legal challenge.
  • If the morphed picture/video is being digitally distributed publicly, then the accused could face being arrested and charged with “Indecent Communication” under section 372(1) of the Criminal Code, “Everyone commits an offence who, with intent to alarm or annoy a person, makes an indecent communication to that person or to any other person by a means of telecommunication”
  • If the morphed picture/video is being used as a form of blackmail, then the accused could face being arrested and charged with “Extortion” under section 346(1) of the Criminal Code, “Everyone commits extortion who, without reasonable justification or excuse and with intent to obtain anything, by threats, accusations, menaces or violence induces or attempts to induce any person, whether or not he is the person threatened, accused or menaced or to whom violence is shown, to do anything or cause anything to be done.
  • If the morphed picture/video that is released publicly is used to harass a person in such a way to cause them to reasonably fear for their safety, then the accused could face being arrested and charged with “Criminal Harassment” under section 264(1) of the Criminal Code, “No person shall, without lawful authority and knowing that another person is harassed or recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed, engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.

 

Civil Law In Canada:

There are also several Civil legal remedies that may apply such as – Defamation, Harassment, Violation of Privacy, and Appropriation of Personality. We are not experts when it comes to Civil Law; thus, we would recommend connecting with a lawyer who specializes in online infringement or defamation cases. It is also important to understand that Civil remedies can be very expensive, and the victim needs to know the identity of the person creating these deepfakes – often not an easy thing to do.

We here at the White Hatter are seeing an increase in cases where teens are using deepfakes, nudification apps, and morphing technology in two primary ways that we believe parents, caregivers, teens, and schools should be aware of:

  1. Inappropriate and egregious jest (most common), or
  2. As a weapon to purposely target others.

We have investigated both here at the White Hatter.  Both teens and adults need to know that when it comes to sexualized deepfakes and nudification, neither is funny, and both could have significant legal consequences! Parents, please share the contents of this article with your teens, and have a deep discussion about this issue and its real emotional, psychological, physical, social, and legal consequences.

As many of the big social media vendors move into the “metaverse”, we do believe that deepfakes, nudification, and gender-based tech violence will be of greater concern, especially to those who identify as female. Given that many of the big tech vendors are based in the United States, we believe that section 230 of the US Communication Decency Act, which many of these vendors use to hide and shield themselves from civil liability, needs to change. Making these vendors legally responsible for removing inappropriate and criminal content on their platforms by third parties is a must in our opinion.  If there are no significant court-imposed financial consequences to these vendors, then there is no incentive for them to deal effectively with the issues discussed in this article!

 

Sugaring, Sugar Daddies, and Sugar Babies

In 2014, a site called as “Seeking Arrangement” was the first to monetize “sugaring”, and since that time, this online industry has grown exponentially with many other sites popping up such as “Sugar Daddy Canada” and “Vancouver Island Sugar Daddy”, to name a few.

According to Wikipedia, sugaring is:

 “a dating practice where a person receives money, gifts, support, or other financial and material benefits in exchange for a dating-like service. The person who receives the gift is called a sugar baby, while their paying partner is called a sugar daddy or sugar momma.”

In their beginnings, these so-called “dating” and “companion” sites were primarily targeting young female adults, sometimes males, especially those in college or university as a safe and secure way to help pay for student debt. In fact, in a January 2020 Daily Hive article titled, “UBC Ranks In Top 10 Universities With The Most Sugar Babies In Canada”, they found that there were over 300,000 sugar babies in universities across Canada, who had an income that averaged just shy of $3,000.00 per month https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/ubc-top-10-universities-sugar-babies

However, these sites are also becoming, out of economic necessity, a way to make “survival money” for teens and single parents who have no other source of income to help pay for rent or to buy food and clothes for their child. In other words, sugaring often targets primarily women, sometimes men, who are economically and emotionally vulnerable. It is because of this fact, that like it or not, a sugar daddy starts from a clear position of power over many of the intended sugar babies that they can exploit, especially when it comes to teens.

A disturbing trend when it comes to sugaring, the increase in youth, those under the age of 18yrs, who are both knowingly and willingly involved in sugaring were randomly approached and solicited online by a sugar daddy. We have now helped two teens, and two 20-year-olds since January 2020 who were sugaring, found themselves in a dangerous situation, and connected with us for help. Here’s a TikTok of a young person looking for a sugar daddy:

 

In order to sign up for a sugaring site, like Seeking Arrangement, you need to be 19. However, it’s easy to lie about your age, as there is no valid age verification mechanism that is used. So yes, those under the age of 19 can still access these sites. However, and with increasing frequency, unsolicited sugaring has moved to popular youth social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook to name a few. On these sites, a person will send an unsolicited message to their target saying they are looking for a “sugar baby” and will pay good money for such a service.

As a company, The White Hatter has helped several families who connected with us looking for information and help, given their horror of learning that their teen was involved in this thing called “sugaring”, not knowing what it was or what they could do to stop it.

Case Study

In a recent case, we helped a family who connected with us because they learned that their teen who had just graduated from high school, and was now heading off to university, was sugaring. After we got involved, it was learned that the teen was sugaring to raise money to help pay for the $25,000 bill that they would be facing every year for the next four years specific to tuition, room, and board. This teen did not qualify for a loan and did not want to financially burden their parents given their age and life circumstances. This teen had been working a part-time job for the past few years, but because of COVID, they were let go. Given they could not find another job, they turned to sugaring as a way to help pay for their upcoming bills.

Case Study

In another case, we helped a family with a 16-year-old teen who was sugaring not because they needed survival money for room and board or college tuition, but rather because they wanted to enhance their culture of spending for material items for self-indulgent purposes such as clothing, fashion accessories (purses, jewelry, shoes, cellphones), vaping paraphernalia, or even tattoos. To them, it was an easy way to make money to enjoy their recreational lifestyle.

Here’s an Instagram text message thread that was sent to me by a family whose 17-year-old teen was involved in sugaring for survival money (Sugar Daddy = SD and Teen = T):

SD: Hello babe, I really admire your photo and I’ll like to see more sexy photos of you babe. Can you please be my sugar baby? I’ll spoil you weekly if you are interested. Please get back to me when you see this.

T: Yes, E transfer or PayPal

SD: Sorry where you from?

T: XXXX BC how about you

SD: I live in Riverside California

T: Oh Nice

SD: I am very serious about having you as my sugar baby honestly. I’ve been through a lot these past few weeks I just need to put my mind together and focus on new things.

T: Okay, so e transfer or PayPal?

SD: I don’t use those platforms like cashapp or Venmo coz I have a business account and I can’t link my card to any payment apps, my assistant use those apps but I want to keep this private.

T: Okay, how do you want to do this and what do u expect

SD: Do you have money deposit enabled? I can send you a virtual check-in your name no personal details needed and you can make the deposit through your bank mobile all it’s easy and very reliable. I just want your attention babe. I just got divorced and the past few weeks has been hellish for me. A friend advised me about this but I can’t go out to clubs or open places to get myself a babe that’s why I am here on Instagram. I just need another focus entirely to get off this emotional trauma. We can start with $200 weekly allowance and upkeep and if you impress me I might increase your allowance.

As the reader can see, this was not the first time that this sugar daddy had reached out to a teen; they clearly had a whole grooming script ready to go based upon past experiences!

 

Is Sugaring Legal?

Often, we have parents ask if sugaring is legal. Unfortunately, and depending upon where you live in the world, sugaring often skates a fine line when it comes to criminal law – check with your local police agency. Most sugaring sites, and those who engage in sugaring, make it publicly known that they are only looking for a “consenting companionship”, leaving how that consenting relationship evolves open to negotiation over time. Very few sugar daddies start asking for intimate images at the beginning of such a contractual relationship purposely to escape legal consequences. A good example, we helped a family whose 17-year-old teen was sending pictures of their bare feet to a sugar daddy for $25.00 per deck. This specific teen had made over $350 in one week sending pics of their bare feet. We will be speaking directly to feet pictures later in this chapter

Many sugar sites, and popular youth social media apps, where sugaring takes place to prohibit any discussion surrounding money for sexualized content and will remove any such discussions as a breach of their Terms of Service. This is their feeble way of publicly saying that they are not promoting or encouraging such behavior to take place on their platforms. However, these sites are a gateway where people who agree to a sugar relationship, will now move to private messaging service or app to negotiate terms that would otherwise be banned.

In Canada, under the “Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act”, selling sex is legal in Canada. However, advertising sexual services, paying for those services, and living off the material gains from selling sex, are illegal. However, in sugaring, the initial contact does not involve advertising or even the sending of sexual services. It’s about looking for online “companionship” – wink, wink. However, we know that with teens this companionship will often lead to hypersexualized pictures and text which the sugar daddy will pay a higher “allowance” for, with the ultimate goal of receiving highly sexualized pictures, videos, and text messages which is always rewarded with the highest allowance. However, it should be noted that if the person sending the nude is under the age of 18yrs, then in such a business transaction they could still be arrested, charged, and convicted for the creation and distribution of child pornography.

Depending upon how the grooming process takes place in sugaring, a charge of “luring” or the “production of child pornography” under the Criminal Code could be considered, but likely very difficult to prove given the nature of sugaring. If consensual intimate images or videos are sent within the consensual sugar relationship, and then shared or distributed by the sugar daddy to others without consent, they could face further charges under the Criminal Code for Non-Consensual Distribution of Intimate Images. If a teen requests that the intimate pictures/video sent be deleted, it is my belief that even though they were purchased by the sugar daddy in a consensual manner, even if for their own private use, they would still be in possession of child pornography, if the person depicted in the pictures or video is under the age of 18yrs in Canada. The challenge, identifying the sugar daddy to proceed with any of the above-noted charges, given that many will use the power of anonymity that the internet provides and the techniques used for ghosting their payment to prevent being identified such as the use of Bitcoin or PayPal.

Often, teens believe that online sugaring is safe and consequence-free because they do not meet the person face-to-face. However, what If the pictures, video, or text sent are now used to extort more pictures and videos from the teen, something we helped another family with recently. Yes, the sugar daddy could face a number of charges including extortion, but the pictures, video, and text are already out there and sometimes very hard to get deleted, the result of which can be very emotionally, psychologically, physically, and socially devastating to a teen.

Case Study:

Recently, we were contacted by a young woman, let’s call her Cathy, who needed help given that she believed that her Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts had been covertly hacked by an acquaintance she had connected with online. After a brief investigation, it was clear to us that Cathy had not been hacked, but rather she had been socially engineered online given her very public digital dossier, which was now being used as a weapon.

Unknown to us, Cathy who just turned 20, heard us speak as a young teen at her middle school many years ago. Cathy remembered the promise that we make at every school that we present to, “If you are ever online and need help and don’t know who to connect with, you can connect with us and we will help. If we can’t, we can connect you with someone who can.”

It turns out that starting at the age of 18, Cathy became involved in a subcategory of the online sugaring industry that specifically deals with submission and domination. Cathy agreed to share her story with us about how she became involved in this industry and the consequences of what she originally thought would be a quick way to make easy money.

While in her last year of high school, Cathy was getting ready to attend university and she had no way to pay for her education. She was working a job that would give her little financial ability to do so. At this time, Cathy read an article online about men who would pay for women to verbally, emotionally, and psychologically dominate them in private chatrooms. After doing some further research and learning that there was no actual physical sex involved, Cathy decided that she could be a “good actor” and say anything to anyone online if it would help her pay for university and all its included expenses. Cathy believed this was an anonymous, low-risk, easy way to make some money to help supplement the income she was making in the hospitality industry to help pay for her education.

Through trial and error, Cathy learned online that all she needed to do was to join Reddit and sign into a subreddit that was specific to submission and domination. After being certified by a moderator on the subreddit (proving she was who she said she was), Cathy began her journey into the online world of domination/submission.

Cathy created an account on Kik, a Canadian-based anonymous messaging app, where all communications would take place, and created a PayPal account that clients would pay into for her services. The subreddit was used to send potential clients to Kik so that further private and anonymous conversations could take place as to what the client wanted. Before any online submission or domination discussions took place, Cathy would direct the client to her PayPal account where they could pay for her services upfront. Once payment had taken place, all further engagements took place through Kik.

Cathy charged a $3.00 to $5.00 per minute fee for regular clients. For clients known as “drainers” or “rinsers” (clients who wanted her to drain their financial accounts as a form of submission), she would charge $20.00 per minute. There were also clients that she called “team viewers” where she charged a $20.00 per minute fee. These clients allowed Cathy to control their computers remotely (another form of submission), using computer software known as TeamViewer. TeamViewer is free, proprietary computer software for remote controlling, desktop sharing, online meetings, web conferencing, and file transfer between computers.

Soon, Cathy learned that sexual domination could earn her more money. Although Cathy stated that she never sexually live-streamed with clients, she did begin to sell full nudes of herself, in packages of 10, for between $15.00 to $20.00 dollars to clients who requested such a service. Although these pictures just started as simple nudes, they escalated to nudes of herself engaged in sexual behavior that a client requested. Cathy also admitted that some clients would pay her $20.00 to purchase underwear for her to wear. Some of these clients would also request that she wear the underwear that they gave her money to purchase, and then send it back to the client which she would charge a fee of $40.00.

Cathy stated that she would only spend 1-2 hours per day online with clients, and only worked online Monday to Friday. Given that this was primarily a text-based messaging service with clients, Cathy could do so privately on a bus to and from work, school, or during work breaks. Over a 5-month span, Cathy was bringing in approximately $800.00 a month, sometimes more, depending upon her client’s requests. Although she had regulars, she stated that many were one-time clients.

At first, Cathy stated that what she was doing offered her a real “ego/power boost” given that these clients would do anything she wanted them to do, called her a “goddess” or “mistress,” and were willing to pay her money to dominate them. In fact, she used the word “addictive.” However, Cathy stated that the original ego boost has turned into a feeling of heavy shame, given that she hides what she does from her current boyfriend and parents. Given this fact, and because she was recently socially engineered by a problematic client that really scared her, Cathy has decided to exit from this industry.

Although Cathy believed that she was being careful about what she was doing online to reduce risks, it turned out that she did not take the precautions needed to minimize her personal online information. One day, one of Cathy’s clients began asking small, seemingly inconsequential questions about her life. Eventually, as she was asked more and more of these questions and she started putting the information together, she gathered that this social engineer had access to personal information about her life offline. Given that Cathy was not using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), it appears that this client was likely able to identify her IP address, which cascaded into identifying other personal information that led them to her personal Facebook page. Although Cathy did a pretty good job at securing and privatizing her personal Facebook page, there were still some vulnerabilities that she had not secured, which allowed the social engineer access to additional personal information and her true identity. Cathy’s aggressor was now using this information as a weapon, threatening to out her to her boyfriend, her parents, and her current employer if she did not do what they wanted her to do. In the hacking world, Cathy had been “doxed.”

During our conversations, Cathy also disclosed to us that over the past several years she has faced substance abuse challenges. Cathy admitted that some of the money she was earning online was also going to financially support this habit. Although we are not psychologists or psychiatrists, it’s hard not to draw a correlation between her addiction to drugs, which actually started in high school using the prescription drug Adderall, and her addiction to the online submission/domination industry. It is comforting to know that this young woman is now in counseling to help her cope with both challenges.

Cathy has a long journey of healing ahead of her, and we are so happy that her family is now playing a role in this journey. Although she had shared her story of drug addiction with her parents and boyfriend, she still has not shared her involvement in the online sugaring, submission/domination industry given the shame that she now feels. Cathy’s life in the sex industry does live online and could become public, and this is her BIGGEST fear. People often don’t think about the consequences of their online interactions given the disinhibition effect of the internet and social media. The internet and social networking NEVER FORGETS, but often teens, and even adults, forget this important rule. Remember, everything we post online is public, permanent, searchable, exploitable, copiable, and for sale, and as such, what we post can be used as a tool to hammer out a bright future, or in Cathy’s case, used by a social engineer as a weapon.

 

OnlyFans and Sugaring

Caveat: The young university student who connected with us agreed to speak freely about her experience with a social network called OnlyFans and sugaring, and provided us permission to share it with others on the condition that we kept her identity private for reasons that will become obvious. This student comes from what she identified as a “very traditional family”, and did not want her parents to know what she was doing to make it through the financial hardships of university, especially during COVID19. For the purpose of this article, we will use the name Vanessa, which is NOT her real name.

Very recently, we were contacted by a young 19-year-old university student (we will call her Vanessa) who heard us speak at her school 5 years ago. Vanessa stated that she remembered our presentation like it was yesterday, and also remembered that she could connect with the White Hatter Team anytime if she found herself in trouble online and needed help. Turns out, Vanessa’s Instagram account had been compromised and de-activated for some unknown reason.

During our discussions, Vanessa disclosed that other accounts she had were also showing some unusual activity including her OnlyFans account. For those reading this posting, OnlyFans is a private premium social network that allows the owner to privately share texts, pictures, or streaming video with a subscriber at a mutually agreed-upon price. Often, the content of this “private” service is hypersexualized or pornography-based, where you “pay to play” with the owner of the account. Its popularity during COVID has created a fast-growing subscriber-base of more than 200,000 new members every 24 hours,

As we began our discussions about the culture surrounding OnlyFans, Vanessa was very willing to share her thoughts and experiences. Vanessa was primarily using her OnlyFans page to garner “survival money” to help with the fiscal challenges surrounding university tuition, books, and living accommodations. Here’s what Vanessa shared with us:

  • She was unable to find full-time work because of COVID19 and is presently living at home.
  • Over the past 3-months, Vanessa has made just over $25,000 CDN on her OnlyFans account. Venessa’s specialty, hyper-sexualized dancing to music in a thong bathing suit, similar to what can be seen on TikTok, but even more hyper-sexualized. It should be noted that Vanessa stated that she has never engaged in any open nude or pornographic behaviour on her OnlyFans page. Although Vanessa has been asked to provide nudes on several occasions, to date she has refused even though it would pay her more money. As an example, another friend of hers in university has made close to $80,000 in less than 6 months, but this friend was selling nudes and performing live solo sex acts on her OnlyFans page.
  • Vanessa consistently has over 400 subscribers on her page, each of who pays $5.00 a month to have the ability to connect with her. If the subscriber wants special attention, then they will pay what she calls a “tip” to move to the top of the queue, these people are known as a “simp”. Depending upon what the subscriber wants Vanessa to do, there will be a further charge, her fee was $60.00. Most of her Only Fan private sessions last under 3-5 minutes, or the length of a song that she will dance to. Vanessa used the analogy of an adult entertainment bar to describe the Only Fan process – you pay a cover charge to get in, you tip your server for special attention, and then if you want a “private session”, you pay a further premium fee.
  • Many of Vanessa’s subscribers come from a public Snapchat account that she uses as a gateway to her Only Fans account.
  • On average, Vanessa stated that the person who connects with her will be a male around the age of 23yrs.
  • Vanessa stated that many of her subscribers just want to talk because they are looking for someone to listen and interact with because of loneliness, especially during COVID19 when many are self-isolating at home.
  • When we asked Vanessa if those who identify as male are also utilizing OnlyFans pages to make money, she stated “yes”. Vanessa stated that most males will use OnlyFans pages to sell live sex acts that they engage in with a partner, which lots of subscribers will pay to watch. The money is then split between the guy and the other girl/guy he is having sex with. We would suspect that many are willing and consensual participants, but we can also see how a human sex trafficker could force those under his control for online sexual exploitation and financial profit using this app.
  • Vanessa stated that someone new to the OnlyFans app can utilize the services of a “influencer” (someone who has a very large client base) to help promote their page. The catch, you need to pay this influencer a significant percentage of your profits as a “referral fee”. When we stated to Vanessa that this sounded like “digital pimping”, she did not disagree.
  • When we asked if she had been involved in any less than desirable situations or dangers, she stated “no” because she is very careful in what she does. However, she has heard of other users who have been extorted. In these cases, a client was able to identify the user’s real name, address, and social networks. They then threaten to publicly post screenshots and recordings of what the owner was doing to friends and family if they do not provide free content, or meet them face-to-face. It must be emphasized that anything and everything done on an OnlyFans page can be covertly recorded without the owner of the page knowing.
  • In Vanessa’s case, it appears that it was one of her subscribers that was responsible for some of the digital issues she was experiencing.
 
NOTE: The amount of money made by Vanessa on her OnlyFans page is a rare occurrence. Research has shown that the average income earned on Onlyfans is $150.00 per month, and 90% of all income on OnlyFans is earned by only 10% of the top users. 
 

Don’t get us wrong, there are people, especially those who are musicians and artists, who have awesome OnlyFans pages, but it is clear to us that this site has been co-opted by those who are profiting from hyper-sexualized and pornographic behaviour. The danger, as  another expert stated, “OnlyFans has opened up a new arena for inexperienced young people who are lured into making quick cash for kink.” Yes, OnlyFans pages are individually owned and operated, but there is no doubt in our mind that this site is a prime breeding ground for commercialized exploiters – Pimps, to both recruit and traffic the most vulnerable in our society for financial gain. It has become a platform that is being utilized by some teenagers as,  “purveyors for their self-production of nude, semi-nude, on-demand kink images and videos for online clients.” for a financial profit.

In reality, most people would earn more money by working at a fast-food restaurant than they would on OnlyFans.

But what about women boasting about their huge monthly earnings? Well, they represent an extremely small fraction of the content creators on OnlyFans, and many of them were already famous before joining the platform. Some individuals achieve high payouts through a pyramid scheme-like approach, receiving $50,000 for recruiting additional C-list celebrities. For example, Tara Lynn, who recently gained attention for her explanation of how she increased her OnlyFans income, already had a substantial following on various platforms before she began engaging in digital adult content. Taking explicit photos was not the challenging part for her; building a massive following was. 

What most teens do not understand is that earning around $2500.00 per month on OnlyFans places you in the top 1% of creators on the platform. This may sound like a considerable sum, but it equates to approximately $15 per hour before taxes – remember, this is the top 1%. OnlyFans boasts over one million registered content creators, so what do most of them earn? On average, a mere $180 per month. Since prominent creators like Tara Lynn inflate this average, the majority of content creators earn significantly less.

Earning $180 per month is a harsh reality check that teens need to hear. However, you might argue that it’s still decent money for a side hustle. Well, not really, because you should be prepared for it to become your full-time job. Two reasons support this notion. Firstly, creating content on OnlyFans isn’t passive income; content creators must consistently produce new material to retain subscribers.  Additionally, many creators experience their content being pirated and shared on other websites (sometimes as a weapon for sextortion), which means they have to generate even more content to maintain their income stream with no real control over who sees it. Secondly, it’s not a harmless side hustle. Women who believe they can fly under the radar often face repeated instances of being fired. https://thewhitehatter.ca/blog/online-posting-public-shaming-unintended-consequences/ 

Apps like OnlyFans are becoming, out of economic necessity, a way to make “survival money” for some  teens, university students, young adults, and single parents who have no other source of income to help pay for university, rent, or to buy food and clothes for their child. Something we spoke to earlier in this chapter. In other words, sites like OnlyFans are now attracting primarily women, sometimes men, who are economically and emotionally vulnerable. It is because of this fact that an OnlyFans subscriber/customer starts from a clear position of power that they can now exploit for money. Although Vanessa was over the age of 18, in the past several months we have helped several teens under the age of 18 who owned OnlyFans pages. These teens found themselves in dangerous situations because of the disinhibition effect that this app offers, combined with the lure of what they believed to be “easy money” without risk.

 

Snapchat Premium Accounts

Another tech-based option that teens are using to monetize and distribute self-created intimate images and videos that parents should know about – the use of a Snapchat (SC) “Premium” Account.

 

PARENT NOTE

“How to Create SC Premium Accounts” are easily accessible on YouTube.

Snapchat Premium is not a specific app, but rather it allows the user to create a private story page on their existing SC account that is protected by a paywall that the teen creates.  To view any pictures or videos, the viewer needs to pay an entry fee, via a payment app such as PayPal, Venmo, or another payment apps, that the SC owner links to their SC premium account.  Once the payment is made, the SC premium owner then grants access to the content protected behind the paywall (pictures and/or video).  Unlike OnlyFans which will take a 20%+ cut in financial profits made, the user of a SC premium account receives 100% of the money. The other benefit, money deposited only shows as a PayPal or Venmo payment on a bank statement, thus parents monitoring will not know what the payment is for.

Although a SC premium account can be used on one phone, where it can be toggled back and forth between the user’s personal account and the premium account, often teens will not do this given the fear that a parent or caregiver who is monitoring their phone will see both accounts.  Instead, it is very common that teens will use a second phone, commonly known as a “burner phone”, that the parents don’t know about, where the SC premium account is kept and used.

Yes, SC premium accounts being used to sell intimate images and videos, especially for those under the age of 18, are illegal and violate SC Terms Of Service (TOS); if such an account is reported to SC, they will quickly take it down. However, once taken down, a new SC Premium account is often created immediately by the teen and then used in its place.

 

Parent Note:

Any app that offers live streaming capability can be used by youth for sugaring such as TikTok Live, Instagram Live, Snapchat, Periscope, and all the other live apps out there.

 

What About Feet Pictures – Are They Legal

Over the past several months, during our question and answer segment with both middle school and high school students on the topics of sexting, nudes, intimate images, and the Canadian law, we have seen an increased frequency of teens asking us about the legalities of sending/selling feet pictures online. Yes, this is a thing; in fact, there are a plethora of online sites where teens can sell these types of pictures both in Canada and the United States. Don’t believe us? – just Google it yourself and see what pops up!

Obviously, these questions about feet pics sparked our interest, so we wanted to drill down on this topic with teens who follow us on our social media platforms.  Teens have a lot to offer us adults, especially when it comes to their onlife world, we adults just need to be willing to listen. We asked our teen followers this question:

“Do you know a teen who is selling feet pics” – 183 teens replied, with 34 stating “yes” (19%).

Although this was a small anecdotal survey, it did shed some light on the fact that “yes” there are some teens who are reported to be engaging in this type of online behaviour. With this reality, we (both youth and parents/caregivers) need to understand the legal consequences, if any, when it comes to engaging in this type of activity online.

It is well understood that when it comes to teens sending or selling nudes online, there could be criminal consequences under the criminal code of Canada such as the possession/distribution of child pornography, or the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. However, the question that needs to be answered is, “are the selling or distribution of teen feet pictures applicable to these laws, and therefore also illegal in Canada?”.

After reading the criminal code, combined with several voiced opinions from legal scholars here in Canada, the answer is “No”.  Why? – because the picture of a person’s feet would not fall within the legal description of “child pornography” under section 163.1(1)(a), or an “intimate image” under section 162.1(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC)

Definition of child pornography

  • 163.1(1) In this section, child pornography means
    • (a)a photographic, film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means,
      • (i)that shows a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of eighteen years and is engaged in or is depicted as engaged in explicit sexual activity, or
      • (ii)the dominant characteristic of which is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of a sexual organ or the anal region of a person under the age of eighteen years;

Definition of an intimate image

162.1(2) In this section, intimate image means a visual recording of a person made by any means including a photographic, film or video recording,

  • (a)in which the person is nude, is exposing his or her genital organs or anal region or her breasts or is engaged in explicit sexual activity;

However, of importance, those who ask and pay for these types of pictures, depending upon the context, could face being arrested for “purchasing a sexual service from a person under the age of 18yrs” under section 286.1(2) of the CCC:

Obtaining sexual services for consideration from person under 18 years

286.1(2) Everyone who, in any place, obtains for consideration, or communicates with anyone for the purpose of obtaining for consideration, the sexual services of a person under the age of 18 years is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years and to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of

  • (a)for a first offence, six months; and
  • (b)for each subsequent offence, one year.

If our goal as a parent or caregiver is to provide our kids with accurate information so that they can make informed decisions, then yes, we need to be honest with them about the legality of sending feet pictures, even if we disagree with the current case law.  However, and more importantly, we should also have deeper discussions with our kids about the fact that although foot pictures are not illegal in Canada, the distribution and selling of foot pics actually fuels the growth of the online exploitation of youth, especially those who identify as female.

Often, the selling of what teens see to be innocent feet pictures can also lead to more intimate pictures being shared or sold.  Why? – because sometimes those who purchase such pictures will pay way more money for an actual nude. Feet pictures can, and often do, become a gateway to the exchange of child pornography or intimate images because of the disinhibition effect of the internet. So, although feet pictures are not illegal to distribute or sell, and although youth may believe that sending or selling such pictures may not be harmful, it is important for them to understand that such pictures can and do support the sexual abuse and exploitation of youth – there is a direct nexus

 

 

So, what is a parent to do?

  • Engage with your kids about what they are doing online. Good evidence-based research has shown us that parents who engage with their kids in their online activity, through parental communication and parental participation, those youth are far less likely to engage in less than desirable online behaviour.

  • Does your child have links to credit/pay apps in their social media profiles? If they do, what are they using them for?

  • Have an open and honest discussion with your child about this issue. Enlighten not frighten is the key. Remember, be your child’s best parent and not their best friend!

  • Speak the truth about the legalities surrounding the sending of feet pictures. Remember, what you say is only a Google fact check away. If you try to bluff on the legal consequences, they will know, and parent credibility will be shot.

  • Although feet pictures are not illegal to distribute or sell, let your child know that those who want to receive or purchase these types of pictures from youth could be breaking the law in Canada.

  • Let them know that the selling or gifting of feet pictures can have significant financial consequences via the CRA.

  • Have a deeper discussion with your child about the fact that although they may believe that sending or selling feet pictures in not harmful and an innocent way to make money, it is important for them to understand that such pictures can and do support the objectification, sexual abuse, and exploitation of youth – there is a direct nexus!

When it comes to feet pictures or even intimate images that are being sold by youth online, parents and caregivers need to create a paradigm shift with our kids on this issue, a paradigm shift such as the one pushed by the Ontario London Abused Women’s Centre: “I am not for sale! Stop the Demand! End Women/Child Abuse”

 

Financial Consequences

Another concern, we just finished a discussion with our business accountant and learned something very interesting! “Sugaring”, and/or selling feet pics, would be considered a “service” by the Canadian Revenue Agency and therefore any money made, even if gifted, would be considered taxable income. It doesn’t matter to the CRA if the money was made legally or illegally. In fact, if a sugar baby has made over 30k in one calendar year, they would also no longer be GST exempt here in Canada. Although the CRA is likely not aware of the amount of money that is being made in this industry, they do have a tip line where anyone can anonymously report such activity.

If you are a parent with a child under the age of 18yrs who is sugaring, this may be another avenue to consider specific to consequences if the youth does not stop what can be illegal behaviour in some cases. Not only can the CRA claim money owed to them, but will also add interest on that amount owed where appropriate to do so.

This was actually a tactic that we used in policing when it came to drug dealers. Often, after a search warrant, large amounts of cash would be seized that we would notify CRA investigators about. Even if the accused was later found guilty, the CRA was able to legally deduct money that they calculated was owed to them from the money that was seized.

Again, what adults do when it comes to sugaring is their own business and not illegal. However, for those under the age of 18yrs, this may be another prevention/intervention tool in the toolbox that a parent could consider.

For the adults who are legally sugaring and reading this chapter, just make sure that you are tax compliant to help prevent the tax collectors from coming and knocking on your digital door looking for their cut.

 

What Is A Parent to Do?

Knowledge and the understanding and application of that knowledge is power. So, what can parents do?

  • Absorb the information in this article and share it with other parents. Check with your local police department to see if teen sugaring is illegal in your jurisdiction.
  • Never ever believe that this will never happen to my teen. If we had a nickel for every time we heard this from a parent we would be independently wealthy.
  • Trust your instincts, it’s a million years of evolution that we have been given to keep ourselves and our kids safe. If after reading this article your spider-sense starts to tingle, act on it, and don’t ignore it. You would be amazed how many parents have stated to us that they knew something was up, but they didn’t act until it was too late.
  • Ensure that privacy settings on their social networks and apps are set to only allow people they know to send them unsolicited messages. Most Apps like Instagram have this feature.
  • Teach them to block, report, and then delete anyone who sends them an unsolicited sugaring message.
  • If the teen is being extorted, we recommend notifying the police. Connect with us, we can help guide you through this process if needed.
  • Does your child have more than one cell phone? One could be for sugaring, and the other is for everything else.
  • Is there a change in your teen’s clothing and personal items without the financial means to afford such clothing and items?
  • References to e-transfers, bitcoin, and premium apps or online payment apps such as PayPal, Venmo, or WePay located on the teen’s phone. These are the common ways that teens will receive payments from their sugar daddies. Also having these cash apps listed in an app’s profile can also be an indicator
  • Do they have an “OnlyFans” account, where many sugaring transactions take place https://bit.ly/3kWOW42
  • The use of the word(s), sugaring, sugar daddy, sugar baby in their discussions either online or offline that you may become aware of
  • An increase in the frequency of deposits made into a joint bank account.

Is there some sugaring where there is just companionship without hypersexualized or sexualized behavior or interactions? Yes, but this usually happens in an adult-to-adult arrangement. When it comes to an adult to teen sugaring arrangement, it has been our experience that it almost always leads to predatory sexual grooming and exploitation and the production of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM).

 

Parent Tip

The best defence, have an open and honest relationship with your teen about their onlife world. The research has shown that those parents who engage with their teens online via parental communication and participation, those teens are far less likely to engage in less than desirable onlife behavior. However, sometimes the lure of what youth believe to be risk-free easy money can sometimes still capture a teen who comes from a loving, positive, supportive, and communitive home environment, no matter what their socioeconomic background. Something we have seen time and time again.

 

Update May 2021:

OnlyFans has blown up during COVID to where it is estimated that they now have over 100 million users, many of which are teens who have lied about their age.

Since we wrote this webbook, we have now helped several teens, and their families, who found themselves in harm’s way, because of what they were doing on OnlyFans.  The youngest – 14yrs old.

Often what we hear from teens is, “Creating an OnlyFans site is an easy way to make money!” This is especially true if the teen is producing hypersexualized behaviour where there is no nudity, or when they inevitably turn to the creation of live pornographic sexualized behaviour because such content garners more subscribers and money.

We have also consistently heard from teens that we have helped, “We thought OnlyFans was safe because we are not in direct physical contact with the customer!” – teens believe that the internet and the OnlyFans site allowed a physical disconnect.

Although they may be “physically” safer, what about other forms of harm that teens don’t think about, such as the psychological toll from the constant degrading comments and objectification from the paying customer. It’s not uncommon that customers believe that the only purpose of an OnlyFans content creator is to feed their sexual desire. This can have a significant negative psychological, physical, and emotional impact on a teen over time!

Another danger, it’s often very easy to identify the true identity of a teen, given that teens are often not using the appropriate safety and security measures to protect their identities.  Anything a teen does on OnlyFans can be screen-captured or recorded without their knowledge; these pictures and videos can now be used for extortion, or what is commonly known as sextortion (this is what happened in 3 cases we were involved in).

OnlyFans does not have a search function so as a result, teens will often use their existing social media platform (Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok) as a way to advertise and drive customers to their OnlyFans page. These personal social media sites can often be accessed by a customer where personal information about the teen can be found, like their real name, address, place of work, or what school they go to. With this information, an ill-intentioned customer can track a teen to where they live and come knocking on their home door, or meet them at their place of work (this happened in another case we were involved in).

Again, because anything on OnlyFans can be screen-captured and recorded without the knowledge of the teen, these pictures and videos can then be posted on other sites, including porn sites, which now become public. Because the teen’s name has been tagged to the picture or video, they now become very searchable by friends, family, college/university recruiters, and employers. In other words, these pictures and videos are no longer hidden behind the privacy of a paywall on the OnlyFans site, they are now public for anyone and everyone to see, which could have future negative consequences to a teen. (this happened in another case we were involved in)

Another danger, commercialized exploiters – also known as “pimps”.  Often these commercialized exploiters will rebrand themselves as an “OnlyFans Manager”.  A shovel by any other name is still a shovel; a pimp by any other name is still a pimp! For a fee, a pimp will help a teen to promote their OnlyFans page. Pimps have clearly moved to using OnlyFans as a tool of recruitment, and it is pretty well guaranteed that a teen will be “in-boxed” by these predatory commercialized exploiters.

Another comment and mistaken belief that we have heard from teens is, “we are in control of what happens on my OnlyFans site.” However, this sense of control is actually an illusion.  What they don’t understand is that the customer is actually the one in control. Why? because the customer controls the money – if the teen doesn’t meet their demands, the teen doesn’t get paid. Teens who need the money because of social injustice or life circumstances (survival money), often have no other option other than doing what the customer wants or they don’t get paid. This is called “exploitation” plain and simple!

Parents and Caregivers:

Sit down with your teen and talk to them about what you have read in this chapter.  Remember, knowledge and the understanding and application of that knowledge is power.  We need to educate our teens about this issue in an open and honest way so that they can make an informed decision before they join a site like OnlyFans.

Presently, OnlyFans is being glamorized on social media as a safe and easy way to make money, especially during COVID.  Based on what you have read in this posting, I hope you can understand that this is not true.  However, if we don’t start talking to our teens about the actual dangers, they will only believe the fake glamor.  If they still don’t want to believe you or us, have them watch this GREAT YouTube video from a survivor.

 

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