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An online fight where children need to be saved

GS Paper 2

Syllabus:  Governance, Social Justice

 

Source: The Hindu

 Directions: This Article has been taken from the Hindu Editorial. Go through it once.

 

Context:  Recently, under operation  “Megh Chakra” CBI conducted searches across States and UTs against the online circulation and sharing of Child Sexual Abusive Material (CSAM).

 

Laws on sharing of online Child Sexual Abusive Material (CSAM) in India:

  • In India, viewing adult pornography in private is not an offence (SC in 2015 case).
    • However, seeking, browsing, downloading or exchanging child pornography is an offence punishable under the IT Act.
  • As per the Information Technology (IT) Act, of 2002, it is punishable to show children any pornographic content.
  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are exempted from liability for any third-party data if they do not initiate the transmission.

 

Global effort against CSAM:

  • USA: The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), operates a programme called CyberTipline, for public and electronic service providers (ESPs) to report instances of suspected child sexual exploitation.
  • K: Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), was established by the United Kingdom’s Internet industry to ensure a safe online environment for users with a particular focus on CSAM.
  • INHOPE: It is a global network of 50 hotlines (46 member countries), that provides the public with a way to anonymously report CSAM.
    • It provides secure IT infrastructure, ICCAM (I- “See” (c)-Child-Abuse-Material) hosted by Interpol, and facilitates the exchange of CSAM reports between hotlines and law enforcement agencies.

 

India’s efforts so far:

  • ‘Aarambh India’: a Mumbai-based NGO, partnered with the IWF, and launched India’s first online reporting portal in September 2016 to report images and videos of child abuse.
  • National cybercrime reporting portal: launched by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in September 2018 in compliance with Supreme Court directions for filing online complaints pertaining to child pornography and rape-gang rape.
    • The portal was later extended to all types of cybercrime.
  • National Crime Records Bureau (MHA) signed a memorandum of understanding with the NCMEC in April 2019 to receive CyberTipline reports to facilitate action against those who upload or share CSAM in India.
    • The NCRB has received more than two million CyberTipline reports which have been forwarded to the States for legal action.
  • Jairam Ramesh Committee recommendation (2020):
    • legislative front:
      • widening of the definition of ‘child pornography’
      • proactive monitoring, mandatory reporting and taking down or blocking CSAM by ISPs.
    • Technical front:
      • building partnerships with industry to develop tools using artificial intelligence for dark-web investigations
      • tracing the identity of users engaged in cryptocurrency transactions to purchase child pornography online and
      • liaisoning with financial service companies to prevent online payments for purchasing child pornography.

Challenges in India:

  • public reporting of circulation of online CSAM is very low
  • there is no system of automatic electronic monitoring
  • Dependency of enforcement agencies on foreign agencies for the requisite information

 

What needs to be done

  • India should join the INHOPE
  • Establish a hotline to utilise Interpol’s secure IT infrastructure
  • Collaborate with ISPs and financial companies by establishing an independent facility such as the IWF or NCMEC.
  • Earnest implementation of the recommendation of Jairam Ramesh committee.
  • On-streaming platforms like Netflix and social media platforms should have a separate adult section where under-aged children could be disallowed.

 

Conclusion:

India needs to explore all options and adopt an appropriate strategy to fight the production and the spread of online CSAM. Children need to be saved.

 

Insta Links

Prelims link

  • CBI
  • Interpol
  • Sherya Singhal case
  • IT Act 2000 & POCSO Act 2019

Mains Links:

Q. Define Child pornography and discuss its impact on children and society at large. (10M)