Piracy web sites – threats to kids in Singapore


In a previous blog I referred to research carried out in Australia looking at the sort of items and services that were provided, advertised or associated with piracy web sites. I have just come across another report on the same issue. This time Singapore is the focus.

My interest in this subject stems principally from my involvement with online child protection. Too many parents – and policy makers for that matter – think that piracy web sites are simply places where kids go to have a bit of fun by ripping off big companies that can probably afford it anyway. So what’s the worry? They don’t take the problem seriously because they don’t think it’s a serious problem. They are completely wrong.

In the Singapore study the researcher went to Pirate Bay and typed in the word Brave, being a reference to the animated Disney cartoon about a heroic young Scottish girl. Sure enough Brave was there but surrounding it were ads for stem cells that apparently would provide you with a larger penis, an ad for a dating agency featuring a scantily clad young lady in a shower and an invitation from local “sluts” who want to….well, actually, I think I can leave that bit to your imagination. The Singapore study was therefore not so very different from what had been found in Australia.

Fully 90% of all the ads on the Singapore-facing site were linked in one way or another to what the author calls “high risk” areas e.g. for gambling scams, malware or sex, meaning prostitution. 13% of the ads fell into this latter category. The largest proportion – 40% – were devoted to malware, typically “free” software that really just allows bad guys to take over your computer so they can rip you off or enables them to use your machine to rip off others, probably both.

None of this is a surprise I suppose. No respectable or responsible business would ever knowingly advertise on a site that was so completely wedded to the promotion of unlawful activity in the way pirate pages are.

The site was offshore so it seems the Singapore authorities thought there was little they could do to prevent it from continuing to operate. I’m not so sure.

Despite their early pretensions to be somehow part of a progressive anti-monopoly current, the truth is these piracy sites exist to make money for the owners and the cash comes from advertising. That means someone somewhere is processing payments. Thus if international law enforcement activity isn’t going to deliver a result perhaps the banks and the credit card companies could step up?

This isn’t just about protecting the interests of rights-holders it is also very much about helping to create a better internet for all of us, but above all for our kids.