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[Newsmaker] Not just Telegram: Predators also use Discord

(123rf)
(123rf)

South Korean authorities are zoning in on sex crimes involving encrypted messaging app Telegram, but the platform is not the only one used for sex crimes.

After the discovery of an alleged sexual blackmail and abuse ring on Telegram operated by Cho Ju-bin, local reports say access to illegal material is also being sold on Discord, another messaging app that is newer, and less widely used than Telegram.

One of the servers on Discord was found to carry content of a sexual nature with some 900 users sharing it, and had about 10 links connecting to illegally taken videos and pictures.

Short 10-second teasers with the watermark “paksa,” Cho’s Telegram nickname, lure paid users on one of the servers, while another that opened last month ran a subscription-based system, resembling the systematic Telegram chatrooms Cho ran, the reports revealed.

Cho’s case has drawn massive public outcry in South Korea, prompting President Moon Jae-in to direct stern measures against digital sex crimes.

The arrested man is accused of blackmailing and coercing at least 74 to perform and film sex acts, among which 16 were minors, according to the National Police Agency. The content was shared via paid chatrooms, some called the “N-th room.”

As part of its crackdown on social media- and app-based sex crimes, police agencies were each assigned accounts on several of such platforms -- the NPA is in charge of Wickr, Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency of Telegram, Gyeonggi Bukbu Provincial Police Agency was assigned to monitor Discord, and Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police Agency to keep tabs on Wire, according to the NPA.

Amid public clamor for toughened punishment of online sexual offences, Police Chief Min Gap-ryong vowed a thorough investigation of Cho’s accomplices and chatroom users who possessed and distributed the content “with a determination to root out such malicious crimes.”

He went on to say that “Once the investigation is complete, we will take a strict approach in dealing with those found to have engaged in illegal acts in line with the law and guidelines, as demanded by the public. We will also look into disclosing their identities.”

Min’s comments were made in response to a petition filed with the Cheong Wa Dae that gained over 2.3 million signatures, calling on authorities to reveal Cho’s identity.

Meanwhile, police have apprehended 140 people linked to the Telegram crime ring and 23 people have been arrested as of Thursday, the police said.

Those taken into custody are believed to include 93 who possessed the content, 9 chatroom operators and 14 distributors.

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)
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