RS panel calls for mandatory monitoring apps on all devices to regulate access to child pornography

NEW DELHI: To prevent sexual abuse of children and contain access to and transmission of child pornographic content on social media, a Rajya Sabha panel has made 40 recommendations, including making monitoring apps mandatory on all devices and amending the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the Information Technology Act.
The report was presented to Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu by the panel chief and Congress parliamentarian Jairam Ramesh.
The initiative of Naidu in setting up such a committee to examine and report on an issue of such a wider social concern is the first of its kind and has been widely appreciated.
Ramesh, in the report, stated that it is a good model that can be followed from time to time to get members of the Rajya Sabha to deliberate on pressing social issues.
Expressing concern over the seriousness of the prevalence of the horrific social evil of child pornography, the committee has recommended important amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Information Technology Act, 2000 besides technological, institutional, social and educational measures and state-level initiatives to address the alarming issue of pornography on social media and its effects on children and the society as a whole.
The committee urged the Prime Minister to take up the subject of child pornography and the measures required to combat it in one of his forthcoming ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio broadcast, besides taking the lead in building up a global political alliance to combat child pornography on social media on the lines of the International Solar Alliance initiative.
The 40 recommendations made by the ad-hoc committee relate to adoption of a broader definition of child pornography, controlling access for children to such content, containing generation and dissemination of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), making accountable the Internet service providers and online platforms for denying access to children and removing such obscene content from online sites, besides monitoring, detection and removal of such content.
It also suggested enabling effective action by governments and authorised agencies to take necessary preventive and penal measures.
Noting that the purveyors of child pornography seem always to be one step ahead of the regulators, the committee stressed on the need for implementation of its recommendations as an integrated package of measures and not piecemeal to have any value and impact.
The committee has recommended some important amendments to the POCSO Act, 2012 and the IT Act, 2000 with corresponding changes to be carried out in the Indian Penal Code.
It has sought inclusions of a clause in the POCSO Act, 2012 under which advocating or counseling sexual activities with a person under the age of 18 years through any written material, visual representation or audio recording or any characterisation is made an offence under the Act.
It has also sought another clause to be inserted in the POCSO Act prescribing a Code of Conduct for intermediaries (online platforms) for maintaining child safety online, ensuring age appropriate content and curbing use of children for pornographic purposes.
Under the POCSO Act, school management should be responsible for safety of children within schools, transportation services and any other programmes with which the school is associated, the panel said.
National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal shall be designated as the national portal under reporting requirements in POCSO Act in case of electronic material, the committee said, adding that a new section be included in the IT Act 2000, providing for punitive measures for those providing pornographic access to children and also those who access, produce or transmit Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM).
It also recommended that the Union Government shall be empowered through its designated authority to block and/or prohibit all websites/intermediaries that carry child sexual abuse material.
The committee demanded the IT Act be modified making intermediaries responsible for all measures to proactively identify and remove CSAM as well as report it to Indian authorities as well, besides the foreign authorities.
Gateway Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) must bear a significant liability to detect and block CSAM websites.
Intermediaries shall also be responsible to report to the designated authority, IP addresses/identities of all those searching/accessing child porn/CSAM key words.
It also recommended that Law enforcement agencies be permitted to brake end-to-end encryption to trace distributors of child pornography.
Apps that help in monitoring children’s access to pornographic content shall be made mandatory on all devices sold in India. Such Apps or similar solutions to be developed and made freely available to ISP, companies, schools and parents.
The committee has broadly sought to address two main issues — access of children to pornographic material on social media and circulation of pornographic material on social media in which children are abused. (AGENCIES)