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Asian Church’s ‘sin of omission’ on child porn

It's time the bishops’ conferences on the continent form a separate commission for a digital mission
This picture taken on March 21, 2013 shows a group of people sitting down using their smartphones at a shopping mall in Bangkok. A recent Facebook-sponsored study showed smartphone owners are often connected all day

This picture taken on March 21, 2013 shows a group of people sitting down using their smartphones at a shopping mall in Bangkok. A recent Facebook-sponsored study showed smartphone owners are often connected all day. (Photo by Nicolas ASFOURI / AFP)

Published: January 31, 2023 11:58 AM GMT
Updated: February 08, 2023 12:33 PM GMT

Asian teens are known for churning out terabytes of hypersexual content on a daily basis that makes big waves across all social media platforms with consumers, not necessarily all young, located abroad. It adds to the already available child porn on the dark web at people's fingertips.

Less surprisingly, the immortal nature of the videos has outpaced efforts to get rid of them, forcing victims of child pornography to live with it forever.

In Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country by way of population, the trade in pornographic and sexual videos involving children reached 114.26 billion rupiah (US$ 7.3 million) in 2022.

Indonesia’s Financial Transaction Analysis Reporting Center, which tracks money laundering, said most of the consumers are people based outside the country. Unable to visit Asian nations where child prostitution thrives, pornographers opt for what is known as “sextortion” to lure a child into sending compromising selfies, according to experts.

Once the child starts to object, the perpetrator threatens to post the selfies on social media or to contacts, which typically include family members.

In a report, the Financial Transaction Analysis Reporting Center said a consumers’ external location did not prevent them from possessing the salacious content as fintech apps like Gopay, Ovo and Dana help them to foot the bill online.

"Once into child porn, pornographers constantly download images, store them and repost them at will and they do not stop"

The Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection in Indonesia unveiled a slew of measures this year to curb the endless demand for child porn from Indonesia and Ai Maryati Solihah, commissioner of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission, has asked President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) to take steps to block digital accounts that help child pornography transactions.

In neighboring Malaysia, it was revealed in September 2022 that more than 100,000 Malaysian-registered internet protocol (IP) addresses were involved in child pornography.

The trend is growing, according to a study by the National Population and Family Development Board, because parental control over their children’s internet use is diminishing day by day.

A primary teacher in Singapore, Loh Wei Qi, was jailed on Dec. 9 after he was found possessing 7,786 obscene films, including more than 100 videos of child pornography.

Qi was a big-time user of the Canadian mobile application Kik, which supplied him with his daily dose of “CP,” an abbreviation of child pornography. He was picked up by Singapore police following a tip-off from Canada.

Child sex abuse experts say that once into child porn, pornographers constantly download images, store them and repost them at will and they do not stop unless caught by the law. Qi, during the probe, admitted that he had been viewing porn involving teenage females since 2017.

Other Asian nations also deserve their due share of the blame. In 2019, Bangladesh was ranked fifth in the world for forcing children to work for pornographic content, according to the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

India leads the index with more than 1.9 million incidents of child pornography in 2019, while neighbor Pakistan came second and Iraq and Algeria third and fourth.

"Much of the live streaming, performed for US and Western European audiences, takes place in the Philippines"

Investigators agree that the surge in child pornography reports by companies with open internet platforms such as Facebook indicates an enormous increase in the volume of child sexual abuse material on the internet, attributed to advances in technology.

It is now easier and less expensive to store vast amounts of child pornography on hard drives and remote servers.

Investigators often come across child pornographers with “terabytes of files.” A single terabyte can hold hundreds of hours of video and can be stored for as little as US$25 a month on a remote server. It can be stored on an external hard drive that currently comes for less than $100.

As the volume of internet child sexual abuse material soared, so too did the number of agencies working to curb it.

Homeland Security officials from the US say much of the live streaming, performed for US and Western European audiences, takes place in the Philippines as English is commonly spoken in the Catholic-majority Asian nation.

At times, families in Asia push children to the lucrative business of sexualizing minors due to harsh economic conditions.

These parents often cite the influencer status of the Florida-born teen sensation Jenny Popach and her mother, who often appears in her teenage daughter's inappropriate videos in unsuitable clothes.

The 16-year-old social star currently has over 7 million fans on social media and earns huge money from her influencer status and the videos on the short video-sharing app. The industry calls her posts “shock-value content.”

Her real name is Roselie Arritola and she came to prominence in 2020 at the age of 14. It is not yet clear why she chose to change her name.

"Most often, remotely based predators employ the 'catfishing' technique, posing as a teen to gain the trust of potential victims"

Multiple studies have stated that Asian teens spend more than 10 hours a day on electronic devices. Of this, at least four hours a day is set aside for social media sites, which makes it easy for a predator to identify potential victims with little effort, by bypassing the risk of being caught.

Victims are groomed online through chat and gaming platforms. Most often, remotely based predators employ the "catfishing" technique, posing as a teen to gain the trust of potential victims. However, tech giants who run popular social media sites have shown little interest in tackling child porn.

Participation in sexual activities by anyone under 18 years of age is a crime in many countries. It is also a violation of international cyber laws to depict a minor in minimal clothing, lip-syncing, sexually explicit song lyrics, or conducting dance moves such as twerking, breast shaking and pelvic thrusting.

Asian teens become "influencers" hoping it will pay off eventually with monetary rewards.

Age is no bar for the global influencer market, which is projected to reach $84.89 billion by 2028, having touched $13.8 billion in 2021.

The Church in Asia has not yet turned its attention to this growing social menace. It is time the bishops’ conferences of Asia form a separate commission for a digital mission with an aim to help Asian youth and adults to create and use digital content with Christian faith, hope and charity.

Urging people to lead a good life and condemning sin is not enough. The Church hierarchy’s inaction in fighting pornography, child pornography in particular, is a grave sin of omission against the commandment: thou shall not kill.

Each incident of child pornography kills a child’s mind and body several times. If the Church, which includes every baptized Catholic, condones it, each one of them should be considered aiding murder, and the hierarchy should take greater blame because of its silent leadership.

*The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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