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The Straits Times
October 26, 2023
A rash of members-only groups are sharing illicit, sexually explicit videos and images on the messaging platform Telegram to those willing to pay a one-time fee of less than $100.
Unlike the notorious SG Nasi Lemak Telegram chat group, which disseminated similar content and had more than 44,000 members at its peak before being shut down in October 2019, these new groups have learnt to work in the shadows.
On top of setting quotas on the number of people admitted to avoid being found out, they also operate as channels, which prevents subscribers from identifying other members.
Admission is granted only after payment, and subscribers are either sent a link or added directly to the channel by the owner.
The channels, which feature videos of mainly Singaporean women performing sex acts, are sorted by ethnicity, with names like “Rojak Studios” and “XMM Institute”.
The Straits Times uncovered six such channels and believes there are more of them.
Content is submitted by unnamed people or, in some cases, likely stolen from unsuspecting victims’ devices. Regular updates are promised as well.
Administrators of the channels tout videos of girls from secondary school to university, along with revenge pornography and footage taken from spy cameras hidden in public places like changing rooms.
The channels are advertised elsewhere on Telegram, and are accompanied by previews of content available only to paying customers.
When The Straits Times contacted an account administrator to ask about access, he said it would cost $50 to join a channel that featured young girls. Membership now stands at about 50 people.
The administrator promised “1,000 per cent anonymity”, and said the group routinely switches to back-up channels and moves paying subscribers to the new channels.
When asked if there were photos and videos of secondary school students, the administrator, who remained anonymous, said such content was available, and was obtained from “special sources” and not from the Internet.
Subscription fees can be paid using PayLah via a QR code or a bank transfer.
Checks on the PayLah account linked to the QR code found that it belonged to an account called Wise Asia, while the bank transfer was to be made to a POSB Savings account – under the name John.
PayLah allows users to set custom usernames that can be viewed by others, so ST was unable to find out the name of the administrator.
Circulating obscene materials electronically is an offence in Singapore, and those found guilty can face a jail term of up to three months, fined or both.
Those found in possession of obscene films face a jail term of up to six months and a fine of up to $20,000.
On Oct 14, 2019, four suspects believed to have been administrators or users of online group SG Nasi Lemak were arrested during an islandwide crackdown.
The group was created in November 2018 and required members to upload and share pornographic material if they wished to be allowed to remain in the group.
Its numbers swelled, and 29 members were granted administrative rights – which would allow them to delete messages sent by other members as well as grant or revoke certain rights, such as the sharing of media, among other things.
The group dealt in obscene photos and videos mostly of Singaporean women, and was also believed to promote vice activities.
Out of the four men who were arrested, two – who were 18 and 20 at the time of sentencing – were given a year’s probation after pleading guilty to possessing obscene films.
The following year, a 39-year-old man who acted as an administrator for the group was given nine weeks’ jail and fined $26,000.
He admitted to distributing obscene material, facilitating the provision of sexual services and possessing obscene films.
The last of the four men – a 27-year-old – was sentenced to mandatory treatment for a year. He pleaded guilty to transmitting obscene material via electronic means and possessing obscene images.