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Government Explores Stringent Laws To Curb Online Child Abuse

Government Explores Stringent Laws To Curb Online Child Abuse

The committee will hold meetings with Trai, Bytedance, WhatsApp, Google, Facebook, Sharechat, Microsoft, among others

The panel was formed last week by Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu

Earlier, around 71 videos of child pornography, rape and gang-rape, among other offences, were taken off from social media

The rampant spread of content pertaining to child abuse has been a matter of concern for the government. To resolve the same, a team of Members of Parliament recently held a meeting to look at possible legislative provisions to address the exploitation of children online.

The panel was formed by Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu last week and met for the second time on Thursday (December 12).

In the next one month, the committee of 14 members from 10 parties will hold deliberations with telecom regulator Trai, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and social media companies such as Bytedance (TikTok), WhatsApp, Google, Facebook, Sharechat and Microsoft and submit its report, the panel told ET.

The panel will reportedly also have consultations with civil society groups, child psychiatrists, teachers, experts, parents and government agencies like the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) and law enforcement agencies.

The team which was originally constituted as an “informal panel” to study issues related to pornographic content on the web has now been converted into an ad hoc committee after the logistics problem faced by the panel.

With this, all rules relating to the Select Committee on Bill would now apply to the panel, he said.

Efforts Taken Earlier To Curb Spread Of Obscene Online Content

According to the home ministry’s annual report in October 2019, around 71 videos of child pornography, rape and gang-rape, among other offences, were taken off from social media. A list of 500 keywords used in searching such videos was also compiled and shared with service providers such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, WhatsApp and Microsoft to look into it.

The government launched a website for anyone to register complaints against inappropriate online content in September 2018. And, more than 10K complaints of online content pertaining to child pornography and child sexual abuse were filed till March 31, 2019, on the portal. The centralised platform is aimed at providing easy access to citizens thereby enabling them to report illegal content.

The complaints portal was formalised after the Supreme Court said that online menace of child porn and rape and gang-rape videos have to be curtailed while reacting to a petition filed by non-governmental organisation Prajwala on pornography. The online portal offers two options for complaints. Users can report anonymously and also they can report and track. Once the complainant reports any incident of such online content, the state police authorities take it up for investigation.

The information technology (IT) act states that browsing, creation, downloading and publication of child porn is illegal in India. When an incident of illegal content is reported, social media platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have to comply with the law enforcement agencies and take down the objectionable content and lewd messages from their platforms within 36 hours.