A “predatory” man posed as a teenage girl on social media to get dozens of young boys to send him indecent pictures before blackmailing them.
Jay Lang, 24, whose victims potentially numbered in the hundreds, also sexually abused one of the boys, which led the child to multiple suicide attempts, Basildon Crown Court was told.
Lang, of Canvey Island, Essex, set up accounts on Snapchat and Instagram under a pseudonym, claiming to be a 16-year-old girl. He then targeted boys aged between 11 to 16, getting them to send him explicit images of themselves before he blackmailed them into sending more or paying him money.
He was jailed for 21 years for his crimes on Friday.
Marc Brown, prosecuting, said the 24-year-old struck up flirtatious and later sexually explicit conversations, which led to him inciting his victims to send indecent videos and photos of themselves.
The prosecutor said that "unbeknown to each of the victims" the defendant was using a screen-recording app on his phone and would save the images, and later use them to blackmail the boys.
Lang later revealed himself as a man and asked for further images or demanded cash, threatening to publish the images the boys had already sent if they did not comply.
He sexually abused one of the boys after they felt they had no choice but to agree to his request to meet, the prosecutor said.
The boy said in a victim impact statement read to the court that the abuse “caused me to have suicidal thoughts on a daily basis” and that he had tried to kill himself several times.
Lang also blackmailed another boy into filming himself performing a sex act with a male friend, the court heard.
He said the offending spanned around three years, from 2019 to 2021. "The offending came to light in November 2021 when one of the victims reported what happened to him to police," the prosecutor said.
Police analysis of Lang's phone identified 540 videos and 140,000 images, with 220 potential victims identified. "As a result of all of these inquiries, some 26 victims provided evidential accounts," the prosecutor said.
Lang admitted at an earlier hearing to 46 offences, including causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, blackmail and causing or inciting child sexual exploitation.
Judge Samantha Cohen, jailing Lang for 21 years with an extended licence period of six years afterwards, told him: "You are a predatory, manipulative and dangerous young man. You have wreaked havoc through the lives of 26 young men and their families."
She said he was "aroused by the power and control" the offending gave him and that it caused "anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and suicide attempts".
The judge said it was "compulsive conduct over three years" and had happened despite him being in a "permanent relationship" at the time and having fathered a child.
Lang was made subject to an indefinite sexual harm prevention order and ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for life.
The defendant mouthed "thank you" to the judge as he was led from the secure dock to the cells.
Nick Bonehill, mitigating, said Lang had pleaded guilty to the offences, avoiding the need for a trial.
He added: "Through me, he apologises to each and every victim."
Essex Police said it was the largest child exploitation investigation the force has ever undertaken and the judge praised their work as a "tour de force".