India to issue advisory against child pornography
Aiming to crackdown on websites showing child pornography, the National Democratic Alliance government will shortly issue an advisory to Internet service providers (ISPs) asking them to install available technological tools to filter such content on websites.
This comes at a time when the issue has been at the forefront of public discourse with the Supreme Court asking the government to inform the apex court about its strategy to ban child pornography on the Internet.
“ISPs should deploy filters/technological tools, to block/disable any such child sexual abuse images, videos and or text available on the Internet,” according to a draft advisory on online child protection, prepared by the ministry of information technology and electronics reviewed by InfraCircle.
Section 67 B of the Information Technology Act, 2000 provides for punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in sexually explicit act in electronic form.
ISPs should use other resources available with other service providers, institutions and agencies who are engaged in preventing and deleting such child sexual abuse images videos or text available on the Internet. They should also develop a framework for benefit of users to report occurrence, if any, of child sexual abuse images videos text on these websites or portals, the draft note states.
According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, an industry lobby body, the number of Internet users reached 371 million at the end of June 2016. The number of Internet users in India is expected to reach 730 million by 2020.
A senior official from the ministry confirmed that it will soon issue the advisory for protecting children in the cyber space.
The advisory will also ask ISPs to publish on their websites the name of the grievance officer and his contact details along with complaint redressal mechanism as provided under rule 3 (11) of the Information Technology (Intermediaries guidelines) Rules, 2011.
Queries emailed to the spokesperson of the ministry of electronics and information technology on 24 September remained unanswered.
According to cyber law expert Pavan Duggal, India needs to have a strong legal framework to deal with overall obscenity and pornography, as even children are not safe.
“Under section 67 B, there is a provision for five years imprisonment but that is not a big enough deterrent. Advisory by name itself means advice. It is not binding and it won’t have penal consequences if one does not follow it,” said Duggal, who is also Supreme Court lawyer.
The fresh advisory comes a year after government asked ISPs in August 2015 to block 857 websites showing porn content. However, it subsequently asked ISPs to block only those sites showing child pornographic content. ISPs on their part expressed inability to block such specific content. The decision to ban 857 sites had come after a petitioner had gone to the Supreme Court against pornographic websites and listed these sites.
“Porn is a big problem. People download porn from a local store for as low as Rs.10 and many a times,children discover porn accidentally while researching for their projects,” said Parry Aaftab, a US-based cyber lawyer who founded internet safety organisation WiredSafety.
In December 2015, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government is in discussions with ISPs on upgradation of their infrastructure and technology to address the shortcomings on identifying and blocking encrypted websites.
“In order to effectively deal with online child pornographic contents, government has already initiated steps towards devising a mechanism to securely access Interpol’s worst-of-list through Central Bureau of Investigation, which is the national nodal point for Interpol related activities in the country,” Prasad had said in a written reply to Lok Sabha on 2 December 2015.
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