Deleting ‘revenge porn’ scourge
S. Korean women pay firm to stop leaked sex tapes from getting out
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