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Boy, 14, charged following investigation into online extremist activity: Lethbridge police

A 14-year-old boy in Lethbridge is facing a number of charges, including making and distributing child pornography, connected to the work of an online extremist group.

According to a Tuesday news release, Lethbridge police received intelligence about a local online profile participating in various chats associated with “violent extremists who target and groom young people.”

The group works to manipulate the youth into acts of self-harm, violence and the distribution of child exploitation material.

Police identified the user of the account as a teenage boy who became “entrenched in extremist ideologies propagated by a number of online groups.”

The boy’s online activity included posts depicting violence, weapons, self-harm and child exploitation material, police said.

The boy, 14, was charged with making child pornography, distributing child pornography, possession of child pornography, non-consensual distribution of intimate images and making/possession of explosives.

Police said the explosives charge is related to a video involving a Molotov cocktail.

The boy is scheduled to appear in youth court on Feb. 28. He cannot be identified due to the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Police issue warning

Law enforcement agencies in Canada and the United States have recently issued warnings about these kinds of violent online groups.

“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,” Lethbridge police said in a news release.

These groups primarily target people between the ages of eight and 17.

Police are encouraging parents and caregivers to talk to their kids about healthy online relationships, monitor their online activity and profiles, understand the apps and technology they use and be mindful of red flags.

Some red flags include:

  • Sudden behaviour changes;
  • Sudden changes in appearance;
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits;
  • Dropping out of activities and becoming more isolated and withdrawn;
  • Scars, often in patterns;
  • Carvings, such as words or symbols, on the skin; and
  • Threatening to commit suicide and openly talking about death, not being wanted or needed or not being around.

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