Reports that a Scottish teenager took his own life after becoming the victim of an alleged Internet blackmail scam have heightened concerns in Britain over online abuse.
Daniel Perry, from Dunfermline, was reportedly the victim of blackmailers who recorded his interactions via Skype with a person he believed was an American girl his own age.
They then threatened to show his family the footage unless he paid up, UK media reports say. Instead, the 17-year-old jumped from a bridge last month.
News of his death comes on the heels of outrage over the suicide of 14-year-old Hannah Smith, from Leicestershire in England. Her family said she took her own life after she was bullied on the social networking website ask.fm, having gone there to seek advice on the skin condition eczema.
Her funeral was held Friday at St. Mary’s Church in her hometown of Lutterworth.
The mourners were asked by Hannah’s father to wear brightly colored clothes, not black, the church’s vicar, the Rev. Charlie Styles, said in an online statement beforehand.
Styles said the informal service would “provide a focal point for the community in a time of shock and great sadness.”
Daniel was also taunted and urged to kill himself by trolls on the Ask.fm website, The Daily Telegraph newspaper said.
The Telegraph quoted Daniel’s mother, Nicola, on Friday as saying the people behind the video scam he fell prey to are “clever and dangerous” and had manipulated the footage.
“He wasn’t doing anything wrong, just what anyone his age might do, but this scam is all about exploiting young people,” she said.
Police in Scotland told CNN they are investigating the circumstances of a teenage boy’s death. They declined to identify him or give further details.
A leading UK children’s protection charity, the NSPCC, urged children and young people to find out how to protect themselves online — and to seek help if they found themselves targeted by bullies or blackmailers.
“It’s absolutely heart-rending that a young person could be deceived in such a way, with such a tragic outcome and our thoughts are with this young man’s family,” said Elaine Chalmers, area manager for the NSPCC’s helpline in Scotland.
“If you’ve only seen a static picture of someone online, they may not be who they say they are. It’s important not to send people pictures of yourself or take part in video calls if you aren’t sure who you are speaking to.
“If you have been deceived online, you need to remember that you aren’t to blame and you are not the only person that this has happened to.”
Beatbullying, an international bullying prevention charity, has called for a boycott of ask.fm. Some companies pulled their advertising in protest over Hannah’s death.
Ask.fm said it was ready to work with the police in that case. “We would like to reassure all users and parents of users that we are committed to ensuring that our site is a safe environment,” the site said. “We do not condone bullying of any kind, or any form of unacceptable use of our site.”