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Violent online groups targeting local youth: LPS

Lethbridge Police are warning the public about violent online groups targeting youth across widely accessible messaging platforms and urging parents to be aware of the risk, recognize potential red flags and take steps to safeguard online activity.

In late January, police received intelligence related to the activity of a local online profile participating in various group chats associated with violent extremists who target and groom young people, manipulating them to participate in self-harm, acts of violence and the distribution of child sexual exploitation material.

The Lethbridge user was identified as a teenage boy who had become entrenched in extremist ideologies propagated by a number of online groups. The youth’s online activity included posts depicting incidents of violence, weapons, self-harm and child sexual exploitation material.

The 14-year-old, who cannot be identified, is charged with making child pornography, distributing child pornography, possession of child pornography, non-consensual distribution of intimate images and making/possession of explosives (related to a video post involving a Molotov cocktail). He is scheduled to appear in youth court tomorrow.

Law enforcement agencies in Canada and the U.S. have issued recent warnings about violent online groups that target youth on messaging platforms to coerce them into posting acts of self-harm, suicide and child sexual exploitation material.

These groups use threats, manipulation and blackmail to control victims. A warning by the FBI advises the groups use many names including 676, 764, CVLT, Court, Kaskar, Harm Nation, Leak Society and H3ll, but they continue to evolve and form subgroups using different names. They primarily target young people between the ages of eight and 17 years old.

“It is critical parents and caregivers talk to their kids about healthy online relationships, monitor their online activity and profiles, understand the apps and technology young people are using and be mindful of potential red flags. Further, and perhaps most importantly, cultivate a relationship of trust and be a resource if/when a child encounters issues online,” officials add.

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