TW: Mentions of sexual harassment and child pornography.
A disturbing Telegram group called V2K has been exposed for distributing and sharing unsolicited pictures of women in Malaysia. These pictures range from selfies from social media accounts, vacation pictures in swimwear, nudes, and even paid-for child pornographic images.
The #predatorgram, as it has been dubbed on Twitter, was exposed by a handful of Malaysian women who discovered their pictures were circulating in the Telegram group without their consent.
The Telegram group has almost 40,000 members that range from students to businessmen. The men share unsolicited pictures of women and girls to each other for their pleasure. The pictures are either taken from social media, or nudes are requested which are sent as revenge porn. Sometimes the men ask to trade nudes in exchange for another girl’s nudes. Personal information of the women and girls such as phone numbers, home addresses, and social media handles, is also shared with their pictures.
The violation of privacy matched with the disgusting objectification of women and children happening in this group is a major reason why so many women feel unsafe, unprotected, and angry on social media.
That is exactly how Syakinah (one of the women at the forefront of exposing the group) felt when she discovered her own pictures were being distributed on the Telegram group.
in the past 2 days, so many people especially girls have shared their story or information with me regarding the v2k telegram group. this thread details everything i have found
‼️ EXPOSING PORN TELEGRAM GROUP CHATS‼️
all media is either mine or has permission to be shared
— شكينة (@_nsyakinah) October 1, 2020
“It’s not that there are reasons I don’t feel safe, rather there are no reasons to feel safe. At every level, women are vulnerable. At a personal level, women and girls are raped by their own family members and husbands. In society, women are treated like objects for male pleasure. Finally, at a legal level, the laws themselves are full of loopholes that allow men to escape justice. The part that makes this worse [is] that everyone is aware of these things but does not try to change them.” says Syakinah.
Currently, Malaysian law does not define sexual harassment or assault in explicit terms. Malaysia is set to introduce a new Sexual Harassment Bill which will provide detailed definitions of what sexual harassment is, improve the way sexual harassment survivors report their cases, and change the punishment for predators. The hope is that this bill will address the inequalities and harassment experienced by Malaysian women.
The news of this Telegram group also raises questions about consent and the way women are harassed in an increasingly digital and internet-driven world.
“Social media has created the illusion of access,” says Syakinah. “These men believed that because the pictures were posted online that it belonged to them for any use.”
Why do these men struggle to understand the concept of consent? In the bubble of social media, men do not live in the same world as women. They have difficulty conceptualizing the oppressive experiences of women because the patriarchal society uplifts them and the internet has become a new way to exert their power over women in a digital, instantaneous space.
However, Syakinah does think that the internet has been helpful to women in Malaysia despite the appearance of such groups online. “Malaysia currently still lacks general education on women’s rights and via the internet, we are able to educate ourselves by looking at other countries where women’s rights are more elevated and talked about.”
Let us honor these women and girls by heeding Syakinah’s call for self-reflection. “Every person needs to reflect on themselves. Men need to realize that yes, all men are part of this problem. Not all men do these things but all men benefit from the patriarchy. Correct your friends and yourself. Self-reflection is hard but necessary for betterment. For girls, be unapologetic. Don’t be afraid to say when something makes you uncomfortable and upset.”
Due to the public outrage, the Telegram group has now been disbanded. However, the issues that groups like these are exposing need to continuously be addressed for women’s rights and safety to be prioritized and protected. The fight for women and girls in Malaysia is a fight that should be taken up by all everywhere. For we can’t be truly empowered unless all of us are.
Please sign the petition to table the Sexual Harassment Bill in Malaysia.