Local online sex forum allowed to thrive
Teen shocked to see her sex video on online forum
She allowed her then-boyfriend to film them having sex. They were in love and she trusted him. She was 13 years old.
Imagine her shock and disgust when their sex video popped up on a popular local online forum. When she confronted him, he denied any knowledge. She broke up with him and made a police report.
This girl, whom we shall call Amanda, may have been naive to agree to the video but she is a victim.
Just like the women who were targeted by two young perverts who sneaked upskirt videos of them and uploaded them on the same forum.
Last week, the court heard that former secondary schoolmates Patrick Sim, 20, and Lee Yi Jie, 21, posted the videos to gain "reputation points" - awarded to users and contributors to "enhance standing and credibility in the forum".
In sentencing the two men to 12 weeks' jail each, District Judge Mathew Joseph called the forum "a thriving community of like-minded and depraved individuals... commenting on each other's perverse handiwork".
The judge hit it on the nail. The forum is a hotbed of sleaze where users discuss the commercial sex scene in Singapore and Malaysia, and trade sex videos and pictures online like trading cards.
And the videos are not just of porn stars and prostitutes, but also ostensibly of wives and girlfriends.
One way to gain membership to the private section, where the X-rated stuff can be seen and shared, is to submit "digital camera pictures of you in an erotic situation with your wife, girlfriend, whore, bargirl, KTV lounge hostess or whatever", according to the website.
Or one could pay US$17.95 (S$24) a month for premium membership.
Once access is granted to the private section, users can either trade privately with each other or post content on the forum to gain "reputation points".
We are not naming the forum to avoid giving it more publicity.
Not that it needs any help. Since its inception in 2000, it has become the go-to site for anything related to sex in Singapore. The New Paper understands that the forum has 328,000 members and about 10,000 are logged on at any one time.
It's one thing when two consenting adults get kinky in the privacy of their home or hotel room, quite another for such videos to get a public airing or traded on an online forum.
Or worse, encourage people to commit sex-related offences so they can score "reputation points".
Or perhaps even worse, allow the sex video of an underage girl to be viewed and traded online.
Amanda, whose video was made two years ago and posted online, told TNP recently that she found the trading of such videos appalling and was shocked that such a perverse economy existed online.
"I was disgusted when I found out the video was available online after my friends told me. I felt betrayed. I was very upset and angry," she said.
"It was a stupid thing to do and I've regretted it ever since. Having your sex video posted online has a huge impact on your life and everything you do in future might be affected. I don't wish for this to happen to anyone else."
It seems that while the site and its users might have committed criminal offences by posting and distributing obscene material online, prosecuting them might not be easy, more so if the site is not hosted in Singapore. (See report on facing page.)
Responding to queries, a Media Development Authority (MDA) spokesman said it may take action should it find content that does not comply with Singapore's laws.
"All Internet content providers are expected to comply with guidelines under MDA's Internet Code of Practice. These include ensuring that their content does not contravene applicable Singapore laws.
"In the event of a breach, MDA may take action, including issuing a takedown notice or working with Internet Service Providers to disable access to the website."
A police spokesman said they will take action if a police report is made: "When a report is made, police will consider the facts and circumstances of the case to assess if a criminal offence is disclosed and take appropriate action."
Anyone visiting the site can see the smut it peddles. Yet, it has thrived over the past 15 years.
Must there be another Amanda before something is done about this forum?
Share your views with David at firstname.lastname@example.org
I was disgusted when I found out the video was available online after my friends told me. I felt betrayed.
Some video traders do it to compete
Trading sex videos for "reputation points" online is like a "quest" to some people.
Psychiatrist Munidasa Winslow said the points are of no real value, but they have "challenge value" in the minds of the traders.
"It's a compulsion, like gaming, where players have to get to the next level," he said.
"To them, it's like another quest they have to complete to compete with others. Such videos can be compared to a virtual magical sword in an online game."
Dr Winslow added that voyeurism is a psychiatric issue but "people are only as sick as their secrets".
"Once a person is honest with himself that he has a problem, it becomes a solution in itself."
Asked why such behaviour and fetishes are becoming more prevalent in society, he blames it on technology.
"It has become easy with the advancement of technology, with mini cameras and mobile phones widely available," he said.
"It's like porn. In the past, you'd need to buy a film to watch it, but now, with a few taps on your phone, you can find it."
He also said that voyeurs do it mainly for the thrill.
"Upskirt videos give less than undergarment advertisements, but they do it for the thrill and risk. It's doing something illegal or risky that gets them excited.
"It's usually younger adults and lonely people who don't get natural or real sex who develop such fetishes."
Police report needed for prosecution
It is a criminal offence to take upskirt videos, and to film, possess, distribute or even advertise obscene videos.
But prosecuting those who are guilty might not be easy.
Lawyers contacted by The New Paper said that although offences might have been committed, prosecution can happen only when a few criteria are met.
Criminal lawyer Anand Nalachandran said: "A police report must be made.
"Then it becomes a question of whether the person or persons can be identified and whether there is jurisdiction to enforce or prosecute."
There may be no jurisdiction if the website or the uploaders of the obscene material are based overseas. But a police report should still be made, he added.
Criminal lawyer Amarick Gill said the administrators of the site can be taken to task if they can be identified.
He said: "There has to be a police report so investigations can show whether crimes have been committed."
But he feels it would be a long process.
"It might take nothing short of getting Interpol involved and even then, it might take years," he said.
"It's very hard and might require a worldwide investigation, but something should be done."
Under the Films Act, anyone making or reproducing obscene films can be fined up to $40,000 and jailed up to two years.
For distributing obscene films, a person can be fined up to $80,000 and jailed up to a year.
A person found to possess obscene films can be fined up to $20,000 and jailed up to six months.
Net users must be responsible
Responsible digital citizens must take a stand against negative online conduct, said Professor Tan Cheng Han, chairman of Media Literacy Council (MLC).
The MLC aims to encourage Internet users to take greater responsibility online.
Instead of liking and sharing pages and websites with unsavoury videos/images of others or which have dubious content, users can register their objection to such content.
"On social networking sites and forums, we can report abuse or flag inappropriate content to the site administrators.
"We can make it clear that it is not acceptable for such videos/photos and content to be circulated," said Prof Tan.
"On websites which encourage such content, we can report them to relevant authorities and avoid visiting such sites."
WHAT POLICE SAY
A police spokesman said that upskirt cases generally involve perpetrators who use their phone cameras to take pictures or videos of their victims.
"There are no particular prone areas of offence. Victims are generally targeted by random strangers in public places such as lifts, MRT stations, toilets and shopping malls," the spokesman added.
"Victims may even be targeted in their homes by family members, friends or neighbours, or in offices by colleagues."
To avoid being filmed, the police advise:
- Be alert to your surroundings;
- If you suspect you are being followed, remain calm and proceed to a crowded area
- Where possible, move away if someone stands or sits really close to you