The Nth Room: The Rise of Digital Sexual Exploitation on Internet

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The sexual exploitation of women and children is a global human right crisis that is being escalated by the usage of new technologies. Using new technologies, sexual predators stalk on women and children.

New technical innovation facilitates the sexual exploitation of women and children because they enable people to easily buy, sell, and exchange millions of images and videos of sexual exploitation toward victims.

Moreover the existence of social media makes the predator very easy to recruit, find the data, and blackmail the victims. According to a joint report from the UN’s International Labour Organization and the Walk Free Foundation, 71% of global slaves are female. When looking specifically at forced sexual exploitation, women or girls comprise the overwhelming number of victims.

What is Nth Room?

The Nth  Room case that happened in South Korea relied on the app called Telegram, which uses encrypted messaging, to carry out the crimes. Women targeted for the NTH Room were often contacted online through other social media services such as Twitter or Instagram before being told to move interaction onto Telegram.

Targeting on mostly teenagers, at least 260.000 people already subscribed the room as exploiter and currently South Korea Authorities already found 74 women, including many under-aged girls – the youngest 11 years old, to perform sexually violent activities.

Police have revealed the identity of a man who allegedly created the illegal Telegram chat rooms at the center of a high-profile online sex exploitation case. The North Gyeongsang Provincial Police Agency confirmed the suspect, known previously by his online nickname “God God,” as a 24-year-old college student Moon Hyung-Wook.

How it works?

The basic tactic to exploit the victims are by blackmailing them. First of all gathering victim’s personal information (School, workplace, family, friends, etc) with illegal cooperation of public service workers. These information are used to threat and punish when victims refuse to cooperate. Given the fact that most victims are underage girls, somehow it makes the exploiters easy to blackmail them.

The exploiters use various tactics to force their victims to perform the desired acts, such as threat with disclosure of their pornographic materials to friends and family. If this particular tactic doesn’t work, they incite NTH Room male viewers to punish the resisting females by raping them.

According to the Korean feminist activists, when a “slave” refuses to cooperate, the exploiters publish her identifying information – place of work, where she lives or goes to school – in chat rooms designed specifically for this purpose.

Thus, male members of the chat rooms are incited to find the girl, rape her, record the rape and publish it online. These acts serve three goals: they punish the victim, warn other girls not to follow her path, and provide more lucrative pornographic material to sell, as footage of violent rape is expensive.

Unfortunately, it is unsurprising however, as around the world online sexual exploitation and torture of (mostly female) children and young women are growing. According to the Internet Watch Foundation which monitors and removes online child pornography, self-generated imagery (or “selfies”) now accounts for nearly a third of web pages featuring sexual images of children.

They add that “of the self-generated material featuring girls – be it images or videos – most (80.5%) were aged 11 to 13 years”.According to INTERPOL’s Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database, there are 19.481 victims identified in more than 60+Countries and 15 children identified everyday in 2018. The study identifies a number of alarming trends that are being analyzed:

  • The younger the victim, the more severe the abuse;
  • 84% of images contain explicit sexual activity;
  • More than 60% of unidentified victims were prepubescent, including infants and toddlers;
  • 65% of unidentified victims were girls;
  • Severe abusive images were likely to feature boys;
  • 92% of visible offenders were male.

Awareness about digital sexual exploitation

Given the fact that NTH room works by blackmailing the victims, we need to understand that the willingness of victims to report is the most important action to detect the perpetrator, therefore preventing the worst case that may happen.

But sadly, reporting the case to the authority is not easy for the victims right now, especially when the case happens in the patriarchal or conservative society. Most of the victims are not ready with the judgement that may appear later on.

Victim-blaming attitude marginalizes the victims/survivors and make it harder for them to come forward and report the abuse. If society blames victims for the occurred abuse, then they will not feel safe or comfortable to come forward and talk about their condition.

Victim-blaming attitude also reinforces what the abuser has been saying all along; that it is the victim’s fault in the circumstance. However, it is NOT the victim’s fault or responsibility to fix the situation; it is the abuser’s fault without question.

By engaging in victim-blaming attitude, society allows the abuser to perpetrate relationship abuse or sexual assault while avoiding accountability for the committed action. So I think the awareness to support the victim is important when the sexual case happens, no matter how small or big the case, they are still a victim for sexual harrasment.

What I see in Indonesia right now based on the threads that often time appear on Twitter, the potential digital sexual exploitation is about revenge porn, the  malicious distribution of picture or video that being spread in social media that most likely attack woman after they break up with their partner.

According to Data Komnas Perempuan 2018, there are 97 reports of violence against women in cyberspace reported to Komnas Perempuan, cases of porn revenge dominate, with 41 cases (33 percent).

The second type of violence with the highest number of complaints is malicious distribution of digital materials that have the potential to damage the reputation of the victims (20 percent). Then, in the third place is cyber harassment, bullying and spamming (15 percent). This number consists only the reported cases to authority.

Law enforcement investigation is among the most prominent means to combat digital sexual exploitation. And it is also important to always support the victim and pursue justice for them.

So in conclusion, the awareness of sexual explotation is important starting on how we support the victim, not the otherwise, because how we react will determine how far the sexual exploitation case will be solved in the end and the most importantly be wise in using social media and sharing your personal information and private content digitally because we don’t know the harms that may happen later.


Sources
  • https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/nth-room-case-and-modern-slavery-digital-space
  • https://theowp.org/south-korea-and-telegrams-nth-rooms-the-latest-in-misogynistic-culture/
  • https://www.interpol.int/Crimes/Crimes-against-children/International-Child-Sexual-Exploitation-database
  • https://www.equalitynow.org/the_internet_needs_new_rules
  • https://www.unodc.org/e4j/en/cybercrime/module-12/key-issues/online-child-sexual-exploitation-and-abuse.html