Kaohsiung police on Friday said that they have arrested a man who allegedly set up a Web site offering paying users access to videos and images of underage Taiwanese girls.
The man, surnamed Wang (王), was a programmer at a software company, and allegedly had amassed roughly 1.3 million pictures and 1,500 videos of underage Taiwanese girls over the course of five years, police said.
Police said they made the arrest on Tuesday at an office building in Taipei’s Songshan District (松山) where Wang worked, after investigating a tip they received.
Wang was allegedly found in possession of a cloud-based storage account where he allegedly stored the illegal content, which included selfies taken by the girls, as well as photographs of some girls taken without their knowledge, police said, adding that more than 10,000 of the photos were of junior-high school-age girls.
Police said they have sent the case to the Banciao District Court to proceed with trial, adding that they are trying to track down the girls to notify them and to determine what photos were taken under duress or stolen from their mobile devices.
Authorities were alerted by ECPAT Taiwan, a non-profit organization that focuses on saving sexually exploited children, police said.
During questioning, Wang told police that he had a written a program to automate a search of sexual images and videos found on other Web sites, and then download the content to his account and make it available on his own Web site.
In January last year, Wang allegedly began charging visitors to the site a monthly fee of NT$160 (US$5.49) to help pay for the cost of running the site, and later required a weekly payment of NT$160, police said.
About 160,000 people signed up for the site, but many were not paying members — which was only required for some of the content — and Wang earned about NT$300,000 in just more than a year from membership fees and ad revenue, police said.
If found to have contravened child-exploitation laws, Wang could face up to seven years in prison and fines up to NT$5 million, police said.
Statistically, 60 percent of explicit content is shared between partners in a relationship, which often gets used for revenge if the couple separates, police said.
Other cases stem from younger people using social media to share details of their personal lives or engage in video chats and inadvertently show something on camera that gets captured through a screenshot, police said.
In some cases, younger people might intentionally provide sexual images of themselves in exchange for money or items in video games, police said.
Police advised parents to talk to their children about the risks of uploading private images of themselves or engaging in video chats online with people they do not know well.
People are also advised to frequently change the passwords on their devices and accounts to prevent private images from being stolen, police said.
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