There Are Dark Corners of the Internet. Then There’s 764

WIRED collaborated with Der Spiegel, Recorder, and The Washington Post on this reporting. Each wrote separate tales that the information organizations agreed to publish in tandem. This story accommodates descriptions of abuse, self-harm, homicide, and suicide. Reader discretion is suggested.

It seems like an inexpensive true-crime conspiracy: An worldwide community of predators steeped in Satanism lure youngsters from seemingly innocent on-line platforms like Discord, Minecraft, and Roblox and extort them to sexually exploit and grievously hurt themselves. Some victims are even pushed to suicide.

Except it’s true.

A reporting consortium together with Der Spiegel, Recorder, The Washington Post, and WIRED has unearthed a sprawling ecosystem that has focused hundreds of individuals and victimized dozens, if not a whole lot, of youngsters utilizing a few of the web’s largest platforms. Law enforcement believes the “com” community encompasses a swath of interlocking teams with hundreds of customers, together with a whole lot of hardcore members who victimize youngsters by way of coordinated on-line campaigns of extortion, doxing, swatting, and harassment.

This reporting consortium has obtained and analyzed greater than 3 million messages from greater than 50 discussion groups on Discord and Telegram. The messages expose a number of com subgroups and hundreds of customers in practically a dozen international locations on three continents. Our investigation discovered ample proof of predatory conduct and a persistent presence throughout apps together with Telegram and Discord, whereas WIRED additionally discovered com exercise on Instagram, SoundCloud, and Roblox. The platforms are conscious of those teams, however they’ve but to efficiently eradicate them.

The abuse perpetrated by members of com teams is excessive. They have coerced youngsters into sexual abuse or self-harm, inflicting them to deeply lacerate their our bodies to carve “cutsigns” of an abuser’s on-line alias into their pores and skin. Victims have flushed their heads in bogs, attacked their siblings, killed their pets, and in some excessive cases, tried or dedicated suicide. Court information from the United States and European nations reveal individuals on this community have additionally been accused of robberies, in-person sexual abuse of minors, kidnapping, weapons violations, swatting, and homicide.

Some members of the community extort youngsters for sexual pleasure, some for energy and management. Some do it merely for the kick that comes from manipulation. Others promote the specific content material produced by extortion CSAM on the darkish internet.

“Their main aim is to traumatize you,” says Anna, a younger lady groomed and victimized by 764, probably the most infamous teams underneath the com umbrella. “They want to make you suffer. And for you to take your own life. They really are very sadistic people.”

The nonprofit National Center for Missing & Exploited Children obtained a whole lot of reviews of minors extorted into hurting themselves in 2023, says NCMEC’s CyberTipline director Fallon McNulty, a pointy rise over earlier years. The group, which routes reviews from social media corporations and the general public to regulation enforcement, nonetheless receives dozens every month, she says.

“From 2022 into last year, especially, the scale of what’s coming through seems like it’s continuing to grow,” McNulty says, including that in 2022 NCMEC solely noticed “a handful” of such extortion reviews.

These on-line teams, she says, are accountable for “some of the most egregious online enticement reports that we’re seeing in terms of what these children are being coerced to do.”