The dark business of nudes trade in Mexico

EL UNIVERSAL found more than a hundred online profiles selling nudes for MXN$1-2,000

The dark business of nudes trade in Mexico
With just one click, anyone can claim to be of legal age and access this type of content, where it is not uncommon for salesmen to offer “free samples.” - Photo: Rosario Lucas/EL UNIVERSAL
English 11/12/2018 14:08 Montserrat Peralta Mexico City Actualizada 14:09
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Buying and selling in Mexico’s online market gets easier by the minute. You can sell all sorts of things ranging from a button to a house, but if one is to enter the word “pack” (Mexican slang for “nudes”) in one of these browsers, one may access the half-disguised category of “adults,” in which 319 pictures of naked women symbolize a nameless profit. On some occasions, their childlike faces suggest that some of these are pictures of underage girls. In 29 out of all 32 states in the country, there is a salesman willing to send a link containing these images or even videos.

For three days, a team from EL UNIVERSAL tracked the content through one of the main portals dedicated to the sale of articles online. While a total of 124 profiles who offered these “products” were systematized, most of these accounts are created and deleted so fast that it is impossible to monitor them all. In less than 24 hours, the purchase may be invalidated because the “product” has run out.

With just one click, anyone can claim to be of legal age and access this type of content, where it is not uncommon for salesmen to offer “free samples.” Most of these salespersons reside in Mexico City and the State of Mexico.

There are incalculable victims in this line of business. Do these women know that their bodies and faces are marketed online? No, not even the authorities know. This is one of the main reasons why this sort of illegal trade has not yet been stopped. “The problem is that the sale of these images is making them a source of income which these women are usually unaware of. And as long as there is demand, there will be supply,” explained Danya Centeno, a member of the Digital Rights Defense Network R3D.

To make things worse, the websites in which this sort of content is stored are legal, and there are no strict rules preventing these people from uploading said material. “Many companies renting these spaces think that, since the website doesn’t hold them legally accountable in an explicit way, they are not responsible, but Mexico’s Criminal Code does entail legal responsibility,” explained Yolanda Verduzco, head of the Human and Organs Trafficking Investigation Unit at the Attorney General’s Office (PGR).

Since these portals make it so easy for people to sell naked images or “packs,” pictures and videos of teenagers, teachers, pregnant women, students, and convenience store workers are offered for between one and 2,000 pesos, according to the data collected by the newspaper.

Payment methods are no different from any other online purchase transaction. One can pay with credit or debit card and cash deposits. However, the description in the receipt has very little to do with reality: “Earn extra money in your free time” or “Digital poster for plotter printing” are some ways in which sellers cover up their illegal practices.

A few minutes after the transaction, the vendors receive the payment notification and, in return, send a dozen of URL addresses with around 20 images each via e-mail. They also attach a link that is constantly updated. In two hours, the transaction is complete.

At the limit of child pornography

In Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, a salesperson with a record of more than eight months in the online platform offers photos of a teenage girl. By the looks of her face, she is probably a child. The price: One peso. In less than a year, the files were sold 98 times. When browsing the website, EL UNIVERSAL found several sales titles offering pictures of underage girls with the code “CP” or “Caldo de Pollo” (chicken broth), which is used in several Spanish-speaking countries to refer to child pornography.

Prices range from MXN$1-100. These pictures and videos could lead to a criminal conviction if it can be proven that the people in the pictures are under the age of 18.

From 2012 to September 2018, a total of 647 investigation files were opened for the offense of child pornography in Mexico, though in the same period of time, there were only 11 convictions, according to data obtained through the Transparency Network. “This is a very difficult and technical crime to investigate, which makes it harder to bring before court,” Verduzco claimed.

Mexican authorities have found several organizations that use social media to groom minors and then upload their pictures or sell them online, according to the head of the PGR. The public official states that “Mexico has been characterized not so much for producing, but for consuming and sharing child pornography.”

Without consent

Around 25% of the profiles that EL UNIVERSAL systematized are between eight months and one year old; during this period, almost 1,000 transactions took place involving the names of said users. Several descriptions indicate that most of the vendors are the ex-partners of the women who appear in the pictures. They even go as far as to use their full names, reveal their places of work, and even their profiles in social media.

This “business” is different from that of websites dedicated to pornography, since they are “meant to attack someone in particular. There is not only a consumption component, but also a deliberate targeting of women’s intimacy and privacy,” explained Lulú Barrera, a member of Luchadoras Mx, an NGO dedicated to the protection of women’s rights in Mexico.

The dissemination of intimate material of adult women without their authorization is regarded as a crime in eight states, including Jalisco, Chihuahua, Yucatán, and the State of Mexico. However, there are major obstacles for pursuing these virtual aggressions, since they are not considered to be “serious crimes,” stated Barrera.

Online platforms usually operate under a basic rule indicating that “all goods that are forbidden in physical trade are also forbidden in the online market,” explained Julio César Vega, director of the Mexican Internet Association. However, these websites are avoiding their responsibility in claiming that they do not endorse that type of material.

With the increase of these “sales,” civil organizations are concerned about the message this sends in terms of impunity. “If there are no consequences, it encourages people to keep engaging in this sort of transaction,” said Centeno.


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