On Instagram, in India, it’s sex for sale

Watch: How Instagram in India is being used as a tool for sex on sale

The photo-sharing app may have the best of influencers, but is fast becoming a safe and popular haven for sexual solicitation in India.

Facebook’s photo-sharing app Instagram could have the most effective of influencers, celebrities, and even Indian politicians. However it’s currently quick turning into a secure and standard haven for sexual solicitation.

It’s 9:43 am on a Monday and also the hustle’s on. in a very parallel world, Associate in Nursing Instagram user named masti_with_sona puts out a post on “her” story. In giant fonts, it options text, that reads, “DM FOR FUN…ONLY PAYTM USERS,” with 3 lips emojis. Here too, it’s time for business, however of a special kind.

Sixteen hours earlier, a similar user announces another “story,” in cursive font, “Want demo decision @70. Dm American state paytm users.” The “demo decision” masti_with_sona was pertaining to may be a pre-recorded call that includes a lady in a very sexually specific spoken language with a paying client.

HELLO, INSTAGRAM pornography

This is the underbelly of India’s  Instagram, tucked off from the tawdriness, glam and life style. Here, sexually specific hashtags trump product or service endorsements. As an example, an exploration for #paytmgirl can get you 12000 results, principally with pictures of scantily-dressed girls or maybe some extracted from pornography sites. It’s the Instagram nobody tells you concerning and, shockingly, the Instagram not a great deal of active users understand.

A casual look for Paytm on the platform yields several such users prefixing their name with the popular payments company (paytm_riya_sharma), that seems to be the popular dealings mode for these users.

People accustomed to the matter say solicitation of virtual sexual favours on Facebook’s standard photo-sharing app has begun over the past year, as Instagram’s quality unfold on the far side the metropolises and player in users from tier II, III and IV cities.

Instagram is these days among the quickest growing social media apps from the Facebook stable. trade sources say it’s over a hundred and twenty million monthly active users in Asian country, with over half those (60-80 million) victimization it daily. Their migration, sources say, came once Facebook started clamping down on illicit activities.

ET interacted with multiple Instagram users like masti_with_sona over 2 months. These interactions usually concerned a brief exchange of 5 to ten messages of a non-explicit nature. The reporters failed to create any transactions.

ET found there have been nearly fourteen,000 posts with either #paytmgirls (2,400 posts) or #paytmgirl (11,700) on Instagram. Most of those accounts carried show photos of girls, either topless, naked or pampering in sexual activities sort of a striptease. One such account additionally featured smut.

In Associate in Nursing emailed response to an in depth ET form, Associate in Nursing Instagram interpreter aforementioned, “Hash tags used on the according pictures were reviewed, and associated accounts and content that desecrated community tips were removed.”

The interpreter accessorial, “Keeping Instagram safe is massively vital to United States of America. We tend to don’t permit content that displays, coordinates or advocates business sexual services. We tend to investigated the accounts shared with United States of America sooner than this text and disabled those who desecrated our policies. We tend to additionally reviewed accounts related to those shared with United States of America to confirm we tend to lined all bases. we are going to still take away content that we discover sexually exploits adults.”

Paytm failed to answer ET’s form. However, Paytm sources say the corporate doesn’t have management over peerto-peer transactions.

This, however, isn’t Associate in Nursing India-specific issue. Sale of sexual services and content on social media platforms is turning into more and more standard and straightforward. Globally, on Facebook’s arch-rival Snapchat, standard amateurs and models would charge $5-10 for “premium” snaps, counting on user demand. A video would be priced at $15 and a video move into $20.

The dealings layer in these cases would be CashApp, the peer-to-peer product by sq. Iraqi National Congress, or Venmo. On qualitative analysis app lighter, profile bios would browse, “Send American state $5 and see what happens!”


In India, unsurprisingly, it’s known as the ‘Paytm girls’ development. Multiple folks ET spoke to aforementioned this user behaviour was 1st noticed on live streaming platforms like Bigo Live. Users would interact with a entertainer and pay (through beans or different connected in-app incentives) to urge a sensual dance. Again, the dealings layer was Paytm’s standard billfold product, because it was reading pace. This was nearly 2 years agone.

On Instagram, this chance enlarged manifold as a result of inherent options. as an example, users will exchange titillating, sexual, non-public conversations over direct messages, a feature absent in livestreaming apps. What they’re providing is understood as a “service.”

A spoken language with these users usually begins in response to 1 of the “stories” they post on Instagram. The impermanent 24-hour story, because the masti_with_sona case demonstrates, would have a “rate card.” Paytm_manshu’s card says, “Paid fun here. No proof listen. No proof.” This user claims to charge Rs a hundred for a 5-minute video decision, Rs one hundred fifty for ten minutes, Rs a hundred and eighty for quarter-hour, Rs 220 for twenty minutes, Rs three hundred for 0.5 Associate in Nursing hour Associate in Nursingd Rs five hundred for an hour. Associate in Nursing audio decision would value the interested client Rs two hundred (without photos) and sex chat with pictures, Rs {150|one hundred fifty|a hundred Associate in Nursingd fifty} for an hour. Audio and video calls would occur on WhatsApp, on the consumer’s range.

But payment must be direct, that a Paytm-linked range is provided. Usually, these numbers square measure unreached or inaccessible. Users additionally post photos of “satisfied customers” and “payment proofs” (or completed transactions) on their public timeline, that is a component of the bait. once in private asked for credibleness, it’s followed by a message which might probably browse, “No trust, no service,” and afterward “Don’t waste time. solely real customers.” These users clearly indicate they’ll not meet, or interact in “real life.”

In one case, once ET verified the amount victimization Truecaller and cold-called it, a university boy named Hitesh (surname withheld) answered, claiming to be sana_khan_paytm. Hitesh disconnected while not locution a lot of and moments later, blocked one amongst the reporters of this story.


Similarly, a user known as priyanka_paytm_007 had what’s called a “male admin” handling her account. The person claimed over the phone that her brother was running that account and he or she had nothing to try and do with it. A user named paytm_riya_sharma1 additionally repeatedly assured this newsperson that the telephone number happiness to rural geographical area was her “brother’s” and also the Paytm account was coupled thereto. The “brother,” a person named Jayesh (surname withheld), told ET he didn’t understand UN agency Riya Sharma was, faraway from gayly admittingthat he was manning that account.

Almost all Instagram accounts ET interacted with had male admins from tiny cities — Ratlam (Madhya Pradesh), Saharanpur, Bij—nor (Uttar Pradesh), Rajkot (Gujarat) and Ichalkaranji (Maharashtra), to call some.

“I have a sense the Paytm lady isn’t a true lady,” says a Bengaluru-based person tuned in to small-town user behaviour, on strict condition of namelessness thanks to the character of his work. “Instead, guys hawk women’s non-public content harvested from resold phones or at mobile outlets.”


Sri (full name withheld) may be a university student somewhere in rural Gujarat. When categories, he trades sexy photos. “It’s everyplace on Instagram,” he says. “This has been occurring for the last six to eight months. There’s demand for it too.” Sri says, rather honestly, that he’s merely creating the foremost of that demand.

Sri and his variety decision themselves “Paytm Pic Sellers” — a passing search yielded a minimum of 15-20 such users — cleansing the net for photos (including what’s thought-about revenge porn) to be sent via WhatsApp or a Google Drive. “I don’t click real photos,” Sri admits. “I solely sell what’s obtainable on the net.”

Sri’s Instagram profile is full of sachets showing neatness unionized on the ‘highlights’ feature. Highlights permit users to cluster  their earlier posts or stories, thereby up visibility. every such highlight offers the client a sample of what s/he is close to purchase, tho’ not the complete set. the client must then send an immediate message to Sri and also the dealings would once more be over Paytm. Sri claims to possess done 100-200 transactions, priced anyplace between? 80 and?300.


‘BUY three GET one FREE. CHEAP’

What’s most worrying, though, is that the quick access to smut. “It isn’t stunning in any respect. It’s obtainable everyplace and comes (across) in most inconceivable, refined ways in which. You can’t do something concerning it,” says someone quoted earlier within the story. “It may be a real menace.”

On Jan twenty seven, Instagram user paytmgirlnidhi.00 announces a screenshot of a apparently sexual video that includes 2 minors. The user’s story browse, “#Full_ Vdo_In_100_Rs_Pay_Nd_Take.” The handle still exists. And it’s not the sole one. Such content is even being peddled as “buy three get one free.”


On Jan eighteen, a Russian user named ‘bastetlana’ went continue to exist Instagram. The live feature is standard, driving a great deal of engagement. even as Bastetlana went live, paytm_riya_sharma started a bear Bastetlana. For the unaware viewer, it might bump into because the Paytm lady, and not the Russian, UN agency was live — a technique utilized by these handles to ascertain that they’re so girls.

Live is very important to realize trust. Once in a very whereas, these handles be a part of Associate in Nursing already live video, or additional worryingly, use existing sexually-explicit videos, usually coarse in resolution, to indicate they’re live once indeed they’re not. This was ascertained in a very few handles throughout a random look for “Paytm” on Instagram.

Though Instagram says it’s operating extensively with “communities to coach them,” it’s restricted to giant cities and much off from the $64000 arena. ET’s deep dive shows however straightforward it’s to seek out the dark facet on the photo-sharing app.

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