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Cybercrime volunteer programme

Topics Covered: Cyber security related issues.

Cybercrime volunteer programme:


Context:

The Union Home Ministry has said it does not maintain a centralised list of volunteers enrolled under the cybercrime volunteer programme since the police is a “State subject” under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

Background:

In response to a Right to Information Act (RTI) application on the total number of volunteers who have applied under the Cybercrime Volunteers Programme of the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal, the Ministry said the information could be sought directly from the respective States and Union Territories.

About the cybercrime volunteer programme:

Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) has envisaged the Cyber Crime Volunteers Program to bring together citizens with passion to serve the nation on a single platform and contribute in the fight against cybercrime in the country.

The volunteers are registered, and their services utilised, by the respective State/UTs as per their requirement.

  • The programme targets to rope in around 500 persons to flag unlawful content on the Internet.

Roles and functions:

  • The volunteers shall “maintain strict confidentiality of tasks assigned/carried out by them”.
  • The State Nodal Officer of States/UTs also reserves the right to take legal action against the Volunteer, in case of violation of terms and conditions of the Program.
  • The volunteers are barred from issuing any public statement about their association with this program and are also “strictly prohibited” from using the name of Ministry of Home Affairs or claim to have an association with the ministry on any social media or public platform.

Concerns:

  1. No information available on how the Ministry will ensure that the program is not misused by certain elements to extract misguided personal or political vendettas.
  2. No process in place for withdrawal of complaints once submitted.
  3. No clear definition of unlawful content which would relate to “anti-national” activities.
  4. This may violate the decision of the Supreme Court in Shreya Singhal v Union of India (2013) which highlights the need to ensure that overbroad restrictions on online speech are not used as a tool by the State to criminalise free speech on the internet.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About I4C.
  2. Who are Cyber Volunteers?
  3. Roles and responsibilities.

Mains Link:

Who are Cyber Volunteers? Discuss the Concerns associated with their roles and functions.

Sources: the Hindu.