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Rajya Sabha panel lays out child porn crackdown plan

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 23-12-2019 Saubhadra Chatterji

A panel of senior Rajya Sabha MPs may suggest several strong measures, including an international alliance, to curb child pornography and the creation of a regulatory framework to curtail the access of pornographic material to children, according to people familiar with the matter.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: The informal panel, put together by Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu last month, is also likely to underline that while available laws are enough to deal with both the problems — child pornographic content and the availability of pornography to children — the government has to significantly improve their enforcement. (ANI Photo/ RSTV) © Provided by Hindustan Times The informal panel, put together by Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu last month, is also likely to underline that while available laws are enough to deal with both the problems — child pornographic content and the availability of pornography to children — the government has to significantly improve their enforcement. (ANI Photo/ RSTV)

The informal panel, put together by Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu last month, is also likely to underline that while available laws are enough to deal with both the problems — child pornographic content and the availability of pornography to children — the government has to significantly improve their enforcement.

Naidu constituted the panel, comprising senior leaders from 10 political parties, to look into the issue of easy access of pornography to children and its implications, after AIADMK’s Vijila Sathyanath raised the issue of misuse of internet and child abuse in Rajya Sabha on November 28.

The panel has held two meetings and interacted with a number of people — including those running social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Tiktok, telecom regulator TRAI, and the National Commission For Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

“The draft report is being prepared. We are likely to recommend in the report that India must take a leadership role and constitute an international alliance against child porn in the lines of a solar alliance. Such an international alliance can even think of creating an organisation like Interpol to exclusively tackle child pornography and access of pornographic materials to children,” a member of the panel said, asking not to be named.

Eenakshi Ganguly of the Centre for Child Rights said it is high time that the access of children to porn and their use in pornography is seriously addressed. “When young people who are sexually active have access to pornography, it affects them. There have been many cases where we have seen that young people who have access to pornography have committed sexual or other crime against women,” she said.

Another member said that the lawmakers’ panel will focus on three areas — technology, administrative steps, and legal measures — to find a solution.

While both members said the advancement in technology makes it difficult to stop pornographic material on the Internet, they added that representatives of Facebook and WhatsApp have told the panel that the circulation of pornography, or at least the access to it for children, could be blocked out.

It was also pointed out during interactions that China has put a blanket ban on Google and WhastApp, but the panel was clear that China model should not be followed in India, the second member cited above said.

“We have absolutely zero tolerance for any behaviour or material that exploits young people online and we develop safety programmes and educational resources with multiple safety organisations in India like the Center for Social Research, Cyber Peace Foundation, Young Leaders for Active Citizenship, Learning Links Foundation, Internet and Mobile Association of India, and more than 400 organisations around the world to help make the Internet a safer place for children,” Ankhi Das, director of public policy, Facebook Inc India, said.

She added: “We deploy sophisticated technology across all of our platforms to proactively find and remove as much child-exploitative content as we can and work with local and international law enforcement to take action on perpetrators. Our 35,000-strong safety and security team and billion-dollar investments in advanced technology now removes 99.5% of content before anyone reports it, oftentimes as soon as someone tries to upload it.”

The members also feel that while India has strengthened laws against pornographic content, especially related to children, a lot more needs to be done on the enforcement front. The government has amended the Information Technology Act and the Indian Penal Code to tackle crimes, including watching child pornography on the Internet. “But we are going to say that the enforcement of these laws should be strengthened.”

The government, over the past few years, has amended the IT act, Indian Penal Code and Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) laws to prevent browsing, downloading, distributing or hosting a child pornography video, and also showing a pornography video to a child.

The members of the panel may also ask for a stronger regulatory network, including the creation of a new regulator, to check such cyber crimes. According to the first member, “Multiple agencies and ministries are involved in managing the IT space in India. But we need a more dedicated regulatory framework.”

The panel’s report is expected to be sent to Naidu by January 15, 2020.

The Informal group of MPs includes Vinay Shasrabuddhe, Rajeev Chandrashekar and Roopa Ganguly of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Jairam Ramesh, Rajeev Gauda and Amee Yajnik of the Congress, Derek O`Brien of the Trinamool Congress, Tiruchi Siva of the DMK, Sathyanath of the AIADMK, Jaya Bachchan of the Samajwadi Party, Vandana Chavan of the Nationalist Congress Party, Amar Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal, Kahkashan Perween of the Janata Dal (United), and Sanjay Singh of the Aaam Aadmi Party.

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