Delet­ing ‘re­venge porn’ scourge

S. Korean women pay firm to stop leaked sex tapes from get­ting out

The Star Malaysia - - World -

seoul: Tony Kim has been paid to watch porn for the last six years, spend­ing his days star­ing at­ten­tively at graphic videos of naked women and sex­ual li­aisons.

The 27-year-old is part of Santa Cruise, an anti “re­venge porn” force in Seoul tasked with find­ing pri­vate sex­ual images posted on­line with­out per­mis­sion, and re­mov­ing them.

The bleak busi­ness is part of the so-called “dig­i­tal laun­dry” industry thriv­ing in South Korea – a tech-savvy na­tion but one whose cul­ture re­mains chau­vin­is­tic and where ob­jec­ti­fy­ing women is com­mon.

CEO Kim Ho-jin set up Santa Cruise in 2008, ini­tially spe­cial­is­ing in re­mov­ing ma­li­cious on­line ru­mours or in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion for lo­cal firms and celebri­ties.

But in re­cent years a new type of client has emerged – women whose pri­vate sex videos and pho­to­graphs were posted on­line with­out per­mis­sion by dis­grun­tled ex-boyfriends, ex-hus­bands, or ma­li­cious ac­quain­tances.

“We mon­i­tor var­i­ous porn, peer to peer net­works and so­cial me­dia sites around the clock, be­cause such ‘leaked videos’ could pop up at any time and over and over for years,” said chief ex­ec­u­tive Kim.

So-called “re­venge porn” is a global phe­nom­e­non – one study showed that 2% of Amer­i­cans who use the In­ter­net have had such images posted – prompt­ing so­cial me­dia gi­ants such as Face­book to de­ploy counter mea­sures.

In South Korea, 7,325 re­quests to have in­ti­mate videos re­moved from the In­ter­net were made in 2016, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment fig­ures, a sev­en­fold in­crease in four years.

This in­cludes hid­den cam­era footage posted by peo­ple us­ing sur­veil­lance gad­gets or smart­phones to film women in chang­ing rooms or pub­lic toi­lets.

Seoul re­cently an­nounced a sweep­ing pol­icy pack­age to bat­tle the on­line sex crimes, in­clud­ing a plan to make a prison term the min­i­mum sen­tence for such crimes.

At present only 6% of con­victed up­load­ers are sen­tenced to prison, ac­cord­ing to a study by the Korea Women Lawyers As­so­ci­a­tion, with around 65% be­ing fined.

Santa Cruise boss Kim ex­plained: “Most of­fend­ers are teenage boys or men in their 20s who want to see pretty, pop­u­lar girls out of their reach be­ing abused and hu­mil­i­ated on­line.”

Around 140 women sign up for Santa Cruise’s ser­vices each month, ac­cord­ing to Kim.

Some have found footage of them­selves – of­ten via a male ac­quain­tance send­ing them a link ask­ing “Is that you?” – while oth­ers are sim­ply con­cerned that such images may have been shared.

Once Santa Cruise finds a video, the firm con­tacts the web­site op­er­a­tor – some­times a gam­bling or so­cial me­dia site rather than a pornog­ra­phy shar­ing hub – to have it taken down, warn­ing of vi­o­la­tion of pri­vacy laws. — AFP

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