‘Anorexia coach’: sexual predators online are targeting teens wanting to lose weight. Platforms are looking the other way

By Suku Sukunesan: For Entire Post, Click Here…

There’s no shortage of people online looking to exploit and manipulate the vulnerable among us. One such group is anorexia coaches, or “anacoaches”.

They are typically middle-aged, male sexual predators who go online to find impressionable young people to exploit under the guise of providing weight-loss “coaching”.

I have been researching how anacoaches operate. I’ve found they are facilitated by flaws within social media algorithms, as well as large numbers of young people seeking weight-loss help online.

My ongoing research, coupled with other media reports, indicates opportunity for anacoaches has risen in the past few years. My analysis showed that on Twitter alone there are about 300 unique requests for anacoaches around the world daily.

Anacoaches operate on numerous channels, including established social platforms such as Twitter, TikTok, Tumblr and Kik. Despite this, these platforms haven’t addressed the problem.

Targeting teens

An estimated 4% of Australians, or roughly one million people, are affected by eating disorders. And almost two-thirds (63%) of these people are thought to be female.

Screenshot from TikTok. Author provided

Teenagers with eating disorders are more likely to experience poor mental health and impaired functioning in social environments — which leaves them more vulnerable to the influence of anacoaches.

Also, research has shown social media use can exacerbate the extent to which teenagers and young adults chase a “thin” ideal.

One study published by a Dutch human rights law group on the predatory behaviours of anacoaches found self-reporting victims had been sexually assaulted and even raped.

And with anacoaching comes the potential for other forms of criminal abuse, such as paedophilia, forced prostitution and even human trafficking.

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