There’s a dark side to the internet, and you probably don’t even know it exists. Look behind the positive veneer of social media, communication apps and platforms that have made our lives easier and more connected, and you’ll find criminals using the same apps and platforms to run illicit and dangerous activities.
Sextortion syndicates target victims globally through social media. Illegal wildlife trades thrive on social consumer marketplaces. Digital black markets operate anonymously using software designed for press privacy and freedom to sell drugs. Secret child pornography rings run rampant in secret, closed groups and private chats.
This explosive new series lifts the lid on how criminal organisations are thriving in this new digital frontier.
Episode One – The Queen of Sextortion
Sextortion was invented by one woman in the Philippines, Maria Caparas. She turned the idea of making friends online and recording explicit video chats into a profitable blackmail and extortion scam that could not exist without social media. She now runs a mini empire seemingly beyond the reach of authorities, that has led to many suicides.
Episode Two – Wildlife Clickbait
They may look like ordinary posts of exotic pets for sale on social media. But they are feeding a growing trade in illegal and endangered animals in Malaysia and beyond. This criminal industry is worth billions and is jeopardising attempts to protect endangered species.
Episode Three – Black Market Boom
Drugs, guns, counterfeit documents and much more are sold on dark web marketplaces that run on anonymous browsers and using cryptocurrency. AlphaBay was the biggest marketplace, transacting over US$800,000 in a day enabling its founder to live a luxury lifestyle in anonymity, until international law enforcement caught up with him.
Episode Four – The Candyman
It was one of 640 million closed groups on Facebook. Hiding behind the anonymity, the creator of child pornography group Loli Candy and its 7,000 members hid their activities on Facebook and Whatsapp – the dissemination of horrifying images of abuse. While they were eventually bought to justice many more thrive.