Alter Twitter’s awful side: Leaked private sex videos for sale

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Alter Twitter’s awful side: Leaked private sex videos for sale

AT A GLANCE

  • Twitter accounts sell private videos without the owners' consent for P300 to P500, even as high as P1,000.
  • These accounts ride on the popularity and wide reach of the Twitter alter world, an informal community of consenting adults.
  • The spread of these private videos – also traded freely among anonymous accounts – has led to emotional distress among many victims. They were also blackmailed into providing more.

Gary* is just like any other person going through both highs and lows of being a young adult.

He should be enjoying his youth while preparing for the years ahead. But unlike his peers, Gary struggles to fully embrace his future, afraid that a specific incident in his recent past will explode for all the world to see and abruptly end his dreams.

In 2018, Gary met a woman on Facebook. She was beautiful, had fair skin, with looks similar to leading ladies featured in popular Korean television shows. 

When they first became Facebook friends, Gary said he diligently stalked her, combed through photos and videos, and even went through her network. They talked for a while about the most random things and about Gary’s life. It was not long before the woman asked to talk to him via a video call. He felt at ease so he obliged.

It took a few seconds during the video call before he realized that the person on the other line looked and felt too mechanical, that she stopped talking and moving at long intervals. That’s when he realized he was duped and quickly ended the call. 

The woman turned out to be a dummy account that targeted people on the internet. The identity the account tried to emulate was another person, a foreign celebrity, who doesn’t even know that Gary existed. 

The video call did not last long, but enough time for Gary to show his penis and to masturbate. 

Gary expectedly got worried, but months passed without any incident so he tried brushing his worries aside. A year after, another dummy account tried to trick him into doing the same thing. 

He quickly berated the account. He wouldn’t fall for this again, Gary assured himself. But the dummy account replied in a threatening manner, confirming his worst fears.

Nag-chat siya, sabi niya kilala niya ako at meron siyang ikakalat na baho ko (He messaged me saying he knows who I am and that he has dirt on me that he would spread),” Gary recalled.

He blocked the account, thinking that would be the last of it. It didn’t take long before Gary found out that a video of him masturbating was already being sold and traded on Twitter.

Gary’s circle slowly discovered what happened. His brothers found out about the video, followed by some of his cousins. 

He said he has no idea how many people – many of whom he has never met – have viewed the video. He doesn’t even want to think about how widespread his video has become.

Since then, Gary said he’s been a nervous wreck, stressed over the impact of the video. He still goes online but is wary of venturing into other social media platforms, afraid he might see his video. 

Gary has friends who tried reporting the accounts that sell his video to Twitter. They already tried reporting to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). But still, the perpetrator finds other ways to continue the illicit “business” of selling Gary’s video to an undetermined number of people. 

Almost two years since the incident, living a normal life is still a struggle for Gary. What happened back then floats like a gray cloud over his head. 

Kinakabahan po ako sa araw-araw, lalo na at kumakalat pa rin talaga iyong video ko,” he said. “Hindi ko na po alam ang gagawin ko sobra.” (I'm nervous every single day especially since I know the video is still online and spreading. I really do not know what to do anymore.) 

A few hundred pesos

Buying, selling, and trading of private videos, especially without the consent of the subject, are all illegal under Philippine laws.  

RA 9995, or the Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009, prohibits the taking of photo/video of any person without consent. It also does not allow anyone to “copy, reproduce, or to cause to be copied or reproduced” materials recorded, or “to publish, broadcast, show, or exhibit” them.

Still, Gary is just one of the many victims whose private videos are openly sold without consent by people hiding behind anonymous accounts on social media, particularly Twitter. 

In the course of this reporting, Rappler found at least 15 Twitter accounts selling videos of men, mostly teenagers and young adults, engaging in sexual acts. Out of this number, 10 remain active while the rest have since been suspended by Twitter or voluntarily deactivated. 

One of these accounts, which has Gary’s video, has at least 6,112 followers on Twitter, despite being created only in May 2020.

SELLER. The Twitter account selling and trading private videos.

Rappler Screenshot

The account owner, according to 3 Twitter users who requested anonymity, often creates new accounts whenever he gets suspended or mass reported. 

A quick scroll through the account is akin to going through a streaming platform. Snippets spanning 30 seconds or less are posted to entice people to buy or subscribe for the full videos.

The videos being sold vary in length and content. The tweets are usually followed up with a promise of a bigger “library” for the right price. Some tweets include the identity of the person in the video. 

According to one tweet, one can access another private Twitter account where many of the videos are uploaded by paying P300 ($5.92)*. Paying P1,000 ($19.73), on the other hand, comes with “5 full videos of your choice.”

FEES. Minimal fees are required to get access to private videos.

Rappler screenshot

Fees can be paid through electronic wallets, which makes owners harder to trace.

Other accounts, meanwhile, sell videos for P300 to P500 ($9.87) each. One account, created in October 2016, boasts of having 1,563 videos and 304 photos that can be downloaded for P500.

VIDEOS. An account promotes his 'collection' of videos.

Rappler Screenshot

Once payment is confirmed, the account owner sends the link of the videos to the buyer, usually through the direct message feature of Twitter. But there are also accounts that transact over email. 

One account, created in April 2020, even posted some screenshots with buyers, serving as proof of transaction for those thinking of availing.

PROOF OF PAYMENT. One account posts a proof of transaction for potential buyers.

Rappler Screenshot

Used for extortion

The spread of this illegal scheme is aided by sellers who ride on the popularity of the so-called “alter world,” an informal community of consenting adults who use Twitter as a platform for sexual expression.

These illicit accounts selling private videos squeeze themselves into the platform, highjacking hashtags commonly used by Twitter users who post nude photos and videos they’ve taken of themselves. 

There is no single and uniform way that illicit accounts get hold of private videos. 

According to people privy to the scheme, well-established accounts are usually not the ones who trick people through video calls and bogus Facebook profiles. 

It is most likely that owners of these accounts are able to collate videos by trading with other accounts. There are also cases where they buy from people who were the intended recipients of the said private videos. 

This is what 21-year-old John Bardillon thinks happened to him. On May 10, he found out through a friend that his private video was peddled by an account, causing him to lose sleep.

Already reeling from other personal issues, the news that his video was being sold and traded online without his consent further affected his emotional disposition. 

When it was uploaded, I was really sad about it, got really stressed, and slept at 5 am,” he told Rappler. “Wala na akong magagawa kasi na-post na eh (I couldn't do anything because it’s already been posted) so all I can do is to report it."

He acknowledged that he had sent videos to people, but those were meant to be privately viewed. He did not consent to the videos being spread or traded, John told Rappler. 

On May 11, John tweeted to his 30,700 followers to help him report the video, if they ever come across it. Compared to other victims, John said he’s lucky that he has a support system that helps him get through the ordeal. 

A few days after, however, John faced another setback. One Twitter user claimed that he has copies of John's videos and threatened to post them for everyone to see if John does not send him directly more explicit videos.

Naging firm ako na hindi ako mag-se-send, hindi ako ganoon katanga na bigyan ka ng maraming copy na baka kumalat pa lalo,” he recalled. “Kung goal niya na siraan ako, sirang-sira na naman ako.” 

(I was firm about saying no to him. I am not that stupid to give him more videos that he can spread. If his goal is to embarrass and destroy my reputation, it’s already been ruined.) 

The account eventually posted one video a few more times. John just ignored and resisted falling into another trap, but admitted that the blackmailing gave him more emotional stress than the first incident. 

John said he broke down, not because of judgment of other people, but because of the thought that there are those who still have the gall to extort from a person already victimized several times over. 

Na-realize ko na grabe iyong pang-gagago ng mga tao, kasi biruin mo, walang pakialam sa pinagdaanan ng mga biktima, iba-blackmail ka pa,” he said. Wala silang pakialam sa nararamdaman ng mga tao, basta ma-satisfy iyong libog nila o makabenta sila,” John added.

(I realized that people really can do so much evil. They do not care about what victims are going through, they will still blackmail you. They don’t care about what people are feeling, as long as their horniness is satisfied or that they will be able to sell videos.) (To be concluded) – Rappler.com

For the second part of this two-part series, Rappler explores the rampant and open selling and trading of child sexual abuse material, and the challenges law enforcement agencies and civil society organizations face in addressing this problem. 

*Names have been changed for their privacy

*$1 = P50.67

If you encounter commercial sexual exploitation of children, Plan International Philippines recommends reporting to the following goverment agencies: 

The PNP's Women and Children Protection Center can also be reached through Facebook or its hotline 0919 777 7377.

Adults whose videos are being sold or spread without their consent may report to the NBI and PNP. 

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.

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