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Videos of gynecologic check-ups are listed for sale on Alibaba platform

Findings from Chinese media draw social media outcry

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

China has some of the strictest rules about pornography in the world: everything from sexy banana eating to suggestive GIFs can be banned. However, this doesn't mean that erotic content isn’t available through grey channels. And even when it's not, certain people seem to be resorting to other ways of getting their kicks – some of which are extremely questionable.

This week, Chinese media have uncovered a network of sellers peddling videos of gynecological examinations on Alibaba’s second-hand goods platform Xianyu.

Xianyu is an app similar to Letgo or Carousell used mostly to buy second-hand electronics or get rid of old stuff from the garage. Instead, these rogue sellers were offering videos of gynecological examinations which were apparently used for teaching medical students, according to a report from The Beijing News.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)

The videos were advertised as 18+ content and sold for as little as US$1.50. Sometimes the files included real pornographic clips, according to the report.

"Xianyu prohibits illicit and illegal behavior by third-party sellers on its platform," a Xianyu spokesperson told us. "The third-party product listings identified violate our listing policy and have been removed. We will continue to monitor the platform and take action against sellers in violation of our product-listing policy."

Screenshots from Xianyu app show that the sellers were still peddling videos of gynecological examinations on March 8, one day after the original media report was published. (Picture: Screenshot from Xianyu)
This is only the most recent case in China in which content that invades privacy has appeared online. In 2018, a man surnamed Wang who secretly filmed himself having sex with over 100 women and sold the videos online, was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Also last year, a couple in Beijing discovered a hidden camera in their bedroom installed with Wi-Fi for transmitting footage.
Less explicit, but equally disturbing was when male drivers on Chinese ride-hailing platforms were found to be live streaming female passengers without their consent, sometimes asking personal questions -- to an online audience making explicit comments.

Alibaba’s Xianyu says it has since started banning the sellers and removing the listings, but at the time of writing, we were still able to find several offending listings under the keyword “examination”. One seller wrote in an ad: "I ended up in the headlines today." 

We even spoke to a seller who promised to send us some videos through Baidu's Cloud service. We tried to purchase them but failed due to technical difficulties.

The news was met with widespread outrage on social media. Many people thought it was an invasion of privacy and called for an investigation.

“The women probably didn’t expect the video to be watched by anyone other than medical personnel,” wrote one person on Weibo.
“Let's also release the video of [the seller’s] mother giving birth,“ said another angry user.

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.