“Internet rape”: The case of the first man in the world sentenced to prison for online harassment

“Internet rape”: The case of the first man in the world sentenced to prison for online harassment

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Bjorn Samstrom is 41 years old and has just been sentenced to 10 years in prison for having raped 27 minors, mostly girls under 15 … although he never met them in person and never had sex with any of them . At least, not physically.

The sentence was issued by a court in Upsalla, north of Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, and is the first time that someone is found guilty of committing an “Internet violation”.

The man forced 26 girls and a boy from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to perform various sex acts in front of a webcam while watching. If they did not, he threatened to murder their loved ones and publish the content on pornography websites. The events occurred between 2015 and the beginning of 2017.

He was tried for committing violations through the internet, something unprecedented since the network exists. And to that crime of 10 years was added the possession of child pornography, because everything was recorded on your computer.

But what is an “internet violation”?

hands on computerCopyright of the image JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES

Image captionThe defendant kept all the material on his computer and threatened his victims with murdering their relatives if they did not cooperate.

“Real crimes”

“It ‘s just the imagination of the sexual predator who sets the limits. The technology knows no boundaries . So we must adapt our thinking to what may be a violation … ) does not always have to be attacks or coercion physical, “said Annika Wennerstöm, the prosecutor in the case.

“It’s easy to cross the line, much easier than going to a playground and finding a victim, but we do not take this lightly, they are real crimes, with a virtual tool.”

Eighteen of the 26 girls were interviewed during the judicial process, which lasted 20 days. The other nine victims were not identified.

The convicted person acknowledged the acts committed against the victims, although he denied having committed violations.

There have been cases similar to Samstrom in the world, such as the Mexican Luis Mijangos , who was sentenced in California, USA, to six years in jail in 2011 for using malicious software to sexually extort several teenagers.

However, according to the FBI report, Mijangos was judged for “cyberterrorism” and “psychological warfare”, and not for online rape .

Swedish police, 2011Copyright of the imageGETTY IMAGES

Image captionSweden has suffered a wave of rapes and sexual assaults in recent years.

Sweden in recent years has been overwhelmed in recent years by an epidemic of sexual assault and rape. According to the UN, it is the second country in the world with the highest rate of complaints of rape per capita.

According to official statistics, in 2015 alone there were 17,300 acts of sexual violence.

And that wave of sexual assaults has led to a change in the country to toughen penalties, according to the National Council for the Prevention of Crimes.

The changes introduced the classification of certain acts of sexual exploitation and ” online sextorsion  (extortion or sexual blackmail) as a violation, in addition to those situations in which “the victim reacts passively.”

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How to act if you are a victim of a “sextormision” on the internet?

  1. Denounce it : you must talk to someone you trust and, above all, report it to the police.
  2. Do not pay : do not give in to blackmail. And if you already made the payment try to cancel it.
  3. Cut the contact : it is essential that you stop talking to the criminals.
  4. Save the evidence : you should not erase conversations and images, however embarrassing they may be.
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Within this new legislative framework, the concept of ” online rape ” is included and the fact that penetration or physical contact with the victim is not necessaryfor the crime to be treated as a violation.

For some analysts, this case is key because it could set a precedent in Sweden and in other countries.

According to the robotics ethicist Kate Devlin of Goldsmiths University in the United Kingdom, some practices such as hacking a machine and using that device with another person, even in the distance, could be considered a sexual attack.

“Most rape laws require that the defendant has sexually penetrated the victim, so in almost any other country it would be impossible to prosecute what happened in Sweden as rape,” James Chalmers, a professor of law , told Motherboard. from the University of Glasgow, United Kingdom.

“It could encourage other countries to rethink the legislation on violations.

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