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

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WIRED collaborated with Der Spiegel, Recorder, and The Washington Post on this reporting. Each wrote abstracted stories that nan news organizations agreed to people successful tandem. This communicative contains descriptions of abuse, self-harm, murder, and suicide. Reader discretion is advised.

It sounds for illustration a inexpensive true-crime conspiracy: An world web of predators steeped successful Satanism lure children from seemingly harmless online platforms for illustration Discord, Minecraft, and Roblox and extort them to sexually utilization and grievously harm themselves. Some victims are moreover pushed to suicide.

Except it’s true.

A reporting consortium including Der Spiegel, Recorder, The Washington Post, and WIRED has unearthed a sprawling ecosystem that has targeted thousands of group and victimized dozens, if not hundreds, of children utilizing immoderate of nan internet’s biggest platforms. Law enforcement believes nan “com” web encompasses a swath of interlocking groups pinch thousands of users, including hundreds of hardcore members who victimize children done coordinated online campaigns of extortion, doxing, swatting, and harassment.

This reporting consortium has obtained and analyzed much than 3 cardinal messages from much than 50 chat groups connected Discord and Telegram. The messages expose aggregate com subgroups and thousands of users successful astir a twelve countries connected 3 continents. Our investigation recovered ample grounds of predatory behaviour and a persistent beingness crossed apps including Telegram and Discord, while WIRED besides recovered com activity connected Instagram, SoundCloud, and Roblox. The platforms are alert of these groups, but they person yet to successfully eliminate them.

The maltreatment perpetrated by members of com groups is extreme. They person coerced children into intersexual maltreatment aliases self-harm, causing them to profoundly lacerate their bodies to carve “cutsigns” of an abuser’s online othername into their skin. Victims person flushed their heads successful toilets, attacked their siblings, killed their pets, and successful immoderate utmost instances, attempted aliases committed suicide. Court records from nan United States and European nations uncover participants successful this web person besides been accused of robberies, in-person intersexual maltreatment of minors, kidnapping, weapons violations, swatting, and murder.

Some members of nan web extort children for intersexual pleasure, immoderate for powerfulness and control. Some do it simply for nan footwear that comes from manipulation. Others waste nan definitive contented produced by extortion CSAM connected nan acheronian web.

“Their main purpose is to traumatize you,” says Anna, a young female groomed and victimized by 764, 1 of nan astir notorious groups nether nan com umbrella. “They want to make you suffer. And for you to return your ain life. They really are very sadistic people.”

The nonprofit National Center for Missing & Exploited Children received hundreds of reports of minors extorted into hurting themselves successful 2023, says NCMEC’s CyberTipline head Fallon McNulty, a crisp emergence complete erstwhile years. The organization, which routes reports from societal media companies and nan nationalist to rule enforcement, still receives dozens each month, she says.

“From 2022 into past year, especially, nan standard of what's coming done seems for illustration it's continuing to grow,” McNulty says, adding that successful 2022 NCMEC only saw “a handful” of specified extortion reports.

These online groups, she says, are responsible for “some of nan astir egregious online enticement reports that we’re seeing successful position of what these children are being coerced to do.”