An online fight where children need to be saved

Source: The post is based on the article An online fight where children need to be savedpublished in The Hindu on 22st October 2022. 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Social justice 

Relevance: Efforts needed to prevent CSAM 

News: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recently conducted a pan-India operation called “Megh Chakra”. This operation was against the online circulation and sharing of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) using cloud-based storage.  

What is the law in India regarding CSAM? 

The law in India allows viewing adult pornography in private whereas browsing, downloading or exchanging child pornography is a punishable offence under the IT Act.  

However, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are exempted from liability for any third-party data if they do not initiate the transmission.  

The public reporting of circulation of online CSAM is very low in India and there is no system of automatic electronic monitoring. Therefore, India’s enforcement agencies are mostly dependent on foreign agencies for information.  

How are countries around the world taking action against CSAM? 

USA: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a non-profit organization in the US. It operates a programme called Cyber Tipline. This programme is meant for public and electronic service providers (ESPs) to report instances of suspected child sexual exploitation. It also notifies ISPs to block the transmission of online CSAM. 

UK: Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is a non-profit organisation in the UK. It is 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 46 member countries that has 50 hotlines to report CSAM. It provides a secure IT infrastructure called ICCAM which is hosted by Interpol. It facilitates the exchange of CSAM reports between hotlines and law enforcement agencies. 

What efforts have been made by India to prevent CSAM? 

Supreme Court Judgement: SC in Shreya Singhal (2015) case read Section 79(3)(b) of the IT Act. SC said that the ISP shall remove or disable access to illegal content if notified by the government or court. 

In Kamlesh Vaswani (2013) case, the advisory committee (constituted under Section 88 of the IT Act) issued orders to ISPs to disable nine URLs which hosted contents in violation of the morality and decency clause of Article 19(2) of the Constitution. 

NGO: ‘Aarambh India’ is a Mumbai-based non-governmental organization. It launched India’s first online reporting portal in 2016 with the partnership of IWF to report images and videos of child abuse. 

Government: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) launched a national cybercrime reporting portal in 2018 for filing online complaints related to child pornography and gang rape. 

This was developed to comply with SC directions after a PIL was filed by Prajwala, a Hyderabad-based NGO that rescues and rehabilitates sex trafficking survivors. 

Further, the National Crime Records Bureau signed a MoU with the NCMEC in 2019 to receive CyberTipline reports to take action against those who upload or share CSAM in India. 

Parliamentary Committee: The ad hoc Committee of the Rajya Sabha, headed by Jairam Ramesh raised concern about pornography on social media and recommended broadening the definition of ‘child pornography.  

It also said that proper monitoring along with blocking of CSAM by ISPs should be done. 

It further recommended building partnerships with the industry to develop tools using AI for dark-web investigations and tracing the identity of users engaged in cryptocurrency transactions to purchase child pornography online. 

This shows that there are different steps taken by different organizations in India. However, there is more to be done. 

What can be a further course of action? 

First, India needs to join INHOPE and establishes its hotline to utilise Interpol’s secure IT infrastructure.   

Second, it also needs to collaborate with ISPs and financial companies by establishing an independent facility such as the IWF or NCMEC. 

Third, the Jairam Ramesh committee’s recommendations must be followed up seriously and the Prajwala case should be brought to a logical end.

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