NEW DELHI: Social media apps, especially short video making apps like TikTok, Vigo Video, Kwai, and Clip are hugely popular in India among the youngsters and the rest of the age group also. But the downside or specifically speaking the dark side of these apps is being ignored by most of the users in the county.
Chinese video apps like Kwai and TikTok have become big hunting grounds for paedophiles. On these apps, the users and mostly small-age and young girls post 15-second clips of themselves. The videos may be of them doing lip-syncing to a vulgar song lyrics or dancing in an inappropriate manner. But the comments on their videos are mostly from men, praising the girls for showing their bodies. They even ask them in the comments to show more skin.
The comments are all vulgar, from nearly every man who comments on the video.
Nitish Chandan, Project manager at Cyber Peace Foundation (a non-profit organization in New Delhi that deals with child porn cases) said, “Short video apps are the new ground to groom underage girls”.
Last year, this organization found an increase in the cases of child sexual abuse, harassment, bullying, and blackmail and in all these cases the perpetrators found the victims via these social media apps only.
He also mentioned that porn is a deep-rooted problem in India and the content on an app like Kwai is just the tip of the iceberg. He said that according to the stats, the Asian kids are the most in demand for child pornography.
Chandan’s foundation had received 148 cases of child harassment originating from the social apps, and many cases have also gone unreported.
He also told that the paedophiles exploit a child’s addiction to gaming apps or challenges on social media. The trend of paedophiles sending videos to kids and asking them to imitate an adult, and send them back, is growing very quickly.
There have been cases of girls masturbating and sending their videos to a friend they just met on a social app! “Most of them don’t know what they are doing. They think they are completing a challenge and are going to win a contest”, Chandan said.
Millions of followers are there on these short video apps and their number is only increasing each month, very rapidly, after the access of data since the time it became cheaper. Where Kwai, (a Chinese app) claims to have around 10-15 million users in India, other apps like TikTok (built by Chinese giant ByteDance) has approximately 16 million Indian users. And then comes Clip (India-based app having China’s Shunwei Capital as an investor) also had around 3 million downloads in December 2017.
On these apps, the videos featuring girls as young as two or three, and teenagers also, show them being scantily dressed, with boys along with them dancing in an inappropriate way. They lip-sync, flirt with the audience, and pose in a vulgar manner. But one thing that has not been cleared is whether or not the accounts of these kinds of videos are owned by youngsters.
The social media video apps are designed to make the users hooked to them via a simple-to-navigate interface. And because they depend heavily on user-generated content, they run contests and campaigns to encourage local content. Viral content on the Kwai app is generated through campaigns like ‘Act like Amitabh Bachchan’, ‘Create a dance video using #BalleBalle’, or ‘Mime with your favorite Bollywood dialogue’. The prize money for these contests ranges from Rs.30,000 to Rs.1 lakh.
Ganta Murali, who’s the head of Kwai India, says that the app’s platform uses both the automatic and manual review systems for monitoring the content. The company holds training sessions to teach users to create videos. And those accounts which create popular videos receive monetary rewards. Some Indian users have earned up to $400 (nearly Rs.28,000) a month, Murali says.
He also said that most of the content featuring children comes from fake accounts, by which he means aggregators of such content or managed by parents or relatives of the children. On his behalf, he said, “There is a continuous audit to monitor content on our platform. If there is adult or inappropriate content featuring kids, it will be taken down”. But the content moderation team is based in Beijing, so it’s unlikely that this team (India-based) will be able to detect inappropriate content from an Indian child.