Criminal coercion is intending to compel another person to action or inaction by threatening to commit a crime, accusing someone of a crime, exposing a secret whether true or false in order to subject another to hatred, contempt, or ridicule or in order to impair their credit or business. Public servant who take or withhold official action for the same purposes are also guilty of blackmail. Modern criminal codes have tended to expand the crime of extortion to include what is generally regarded as blackmail, however the crime is named.
Historically, blackmail is tribute in corn, cattle, other kind or money levied from the farmers and small owners in the border counties of England and Scotland, and along the Highland border, by freebooting chiefs in return for immunity from pillage. The term is now applied to the extortion of money, or other valuable consideration, by intimidation, by the unscrupulous use of official or social position, or of political influence or vote, by persons upon those whom they have it in their power to help or injure. Originally, the Camorra of the mezzogiorno, the Ndranghata of Calabria, the Mafia of Sicily and similar organizations in the USA and China were blackmail bodies.