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Snapchat is introducing new safety tools aimed at protecting teens from sextortion.

Snapchat is introducing new safety tools aimed at protecting teens from sextortion.


New York CNN —

Snapchat is making it harder for teens to be contacted by strangers on the app, the company's latest effort to curb the sexual and financial exploitation scam known as sextortion.

The company on Tuesday rolled out a series of new safety features, including an expanded warning popup that appears when you receive a message from someone who isn't a mutual friend or contact. Now, if you receive a chat from a user who's been blocked or reported by others, or who's in a location where your other contacts aren't located, you'll also see a warning message that the person may be a scammer, Snapchat said in a blog post on Tuesday.

Additionally, going forward, Snapchat will block teens from sending friend requests to accounts that don't share mutual friends and are in areas with high scammer activity.

In addition to expanding Snapchat's broader youth safety initiatives, the new features are specifically aimed at preventing financial sextortion, a growing and concerning type of scam on social media where bad actors gain the trust of young users and convince them to send sexual or explicit photos, then demand payment in exchange for keeping the photos secret.

These features are designed to better protect teens from potential online harm and strengthen the connections with real friends that make Snapchat unique, Jacqueline Beauchere, Snap's head of global platform safety, said in an exclusive statement to CNN ahead of the announcement.

Law enforcement officials have warned of a rise in online sextortion scams in recent years, in which bad actors, mostly based overseas, target children and teens with masquerading profiles of close peers – in some cases, sextortion has led to suicide.

Meta also rolled out new features aimed at combating sextortion in April, including the ability to notify users when they've interacted with someone engaged in financial sextortion, and the CEOs of Meta and Snap, along with other social media leaders, were called to testify before a Senate subcommittee earlier this year about their efforts to protect young people from online exploitation.

Among the changes Snapchat announced on Tuesday was improvements to its app blocking tool, which will prevent users from simply creating a new account to get around a block: when a user blocks another account, any new accounts created on the same device will automatically be blocked as well.

Snapchat is rolling out more frequent reminders for all users, including teens, about the location settings for the app's Snap Map feature. The feature is off by default, but users can update it to share their location with friends in real time. Users will now be able to update their location settings in one place in the app, remove their location from the map, and customize which friends they share their location with, the company said.

The update builds on Snapchat's existing teen safety features, including a Family Center that allows parents to monitor the activity of 13- to 17-year-olds, as well as mechanisms for removing age-inappropriate content.

Editor's note: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or struggling with mental health issues, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 800-273-8255 to connect with a trained counselor or visit the NSPL site.




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