Saturday, May 8, 2021

Online shift brings kids closer to red-light territory and paedo-porn

The same messaging apps used to host homework and discussion groups are also used by those looking to access sexually explicit material.

Other News

The old internet-attached risks of minors being exposed to pornography and sexually explicit material have grown more challenging with the shift to online classes, with children allowed greater freedom and longer time on gadgets and devices.

Checks by MalaysiaNow following conversations with concerned parents revealed that children having easier access to pornography without suspicion from their guardians, thanks to the personal nature of mobile devices unlike conventional computers, is not the only problem.

There are also groups where child pornography is shared either in public or privately between members.

A check on messaging app Telegram, for example, showed that explicit images of underage persons were among the gigabytes of sexually charged material circulated among groups members.

One group celebrates local girls in compromising poses engaged in various sexual acts.

The group, called “Gprojek Melayu Tudung”, has some 22,000 members. Occasionally, images of children surface as well, along with requests for videos of schoolchildren engaged in sex acts.

The worrying part is that anyone with a mobile phone and the Telegram app – the same things used by students nationwide for their online lessons – can access this content.

Another group called “Barang Larangan” makes it its duty to distribute explicit photos and videos, including of underage girls.

Many users make requests of others in the group if they have videos and images of a certain individual which they found on social media.

In one shocking post, a member shared information on joining a private group which requires payment.

“Members who are interested in kids’ collection, Pedo. New Materials 2019-2020. Updated. PM,” he posted.

“PM” is internet slang for “please message me privately”.

A conversation between Telegram users on access to sexually explicit material involving children.

With schools going online in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, popular mobile messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Telegram have been used by teachers to host homework and discussion groups.

But it also means that many parents have no choice but to buy their children mobile devices where these apps are installed.

The more personal nature of these devices, unlike laptops and desktops, means many of the students use these apps largely away from their parents’ prying eyes.

The shift to online classes where children and devices have become inseparable also means that previous age limit rules set by app developers have become more redundant than ever.

Both WhatsApp and Telegram are rated at 16+.

But there is no way of checking that users are above that age, as all that is needed is access to a mobile phone.

Criminals ‘desensitising’ on online groups

The increasing use of mobile messaging and the exposure it has on minors is likely to pose a challenge to authorities as they step up the fight against the sexual exploitation of children.

The majority of students have been following their classes through home-based online learning, as measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 continue. Photo: Bernama

Three years ago, Bukit Aman’s D11 division, which deals with sexual crimes related to women and children, revealed that as many as 17,333 IP addresses involved with child pornography came from Malaysia, making the country the top consumer of online child pornography in Southeast Asia.

Victims are typically between the age of 13 and 16 who fall prey to the grooming tactics the perpetrators use to normalise sexual contact.

The children are also found to be connected to sexual predators on social media where they casually send over nude photos and videos without knowing it is an offence.

Statistics from the US in 2013 found that 25% of child pornographic content was created by a neighbour or a family friend. Meanwhile, 18% came from a parent or guardian and another 18% from online enticement.

In November 2020, a 23-year-old Malaysian named Shalini who was part of a community-driven sting operation reported that a father was found to have secretly filmed his own daughter and sent it to an online group where child porn is openly traded.

Crime specialists and social activists warn that online communities have made it easier for communication between offenders by normalising their interests and desensitising them to the damage they inflict on children.

And with social messaging platforms like Telegram, it has become much easier to distribute and trade off illegal content.

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates: https://t.me/malaysianow

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news and analyses.

Related Articles