Sunitha Krishnan of Prajwala tells TNM that this is a significant step by the judiciary.

Thanks to Hyd NGO Centre to curb online child sexual abuse and rape videosImage for representation
news Law Friday, October 27, 2017 - 17:04

In a major step to curb the circulation of child sexual abuse material and rape videos online, the Supreme Court has ordered the Centre to set up an online portal and hotline so that people can anonymously report offenders.

This is all thanks to suo moto cognizance taken by the Supreme Court of a letter sent by Hyderabad based Prajwala, an anti-trafficking NGO. Prajwala’s Sunitha Krishnan has been working to curb the circulation of such videos from social media, search engines and networking sites for several years now.

The letter was addressed to former Chief Justice of India HL Dattu and was accompanied by two rape videos in a pen drive. The letter, reports Live Law, demanded that the Ministry of Home Affairs tie up with messaging systems and websites to prevent these videos from being uploaded. It also appealed to the states to introduce special training when it came to cyber-crime issues.

Taking cognizance, the apex court had directed the CBI to investigate the matter and nab the culprits in the two videos. It also demanded a response from the Centre on the same, and for an official petition to be filed in the court.

A bench comprising Justices MB Lokur and UU Lalit, which has been hearing the case proceedings since 2015, had set up a panel in March this year to come up with recommendations to block and report such material on sexual violence and crimes online. The panel comprised representatives from Google India, Yahoo India, Microsoft Corporation (India) Ltd and Facebook.

During the latest hearing, the Supreme Court accepted some of the eleven recommendations made by this panel.

Sunitha Krishnan tells TNM that this is merely one baby step to curb the dissemination and sharing of such content online. “But it is a significant step taken by the judiciary to tell the social media firms that circulation and dissemination of rape videos and child sexual abuse material is not acceptable,” she says.

There are key directions given by the Supreme Court now.

Firstly, the SC has asked for the creation of a central reporting mechanism which will also allow the CBI to receive information about rape videos and child sexual abuse material online. This mechanism should allow citizens to flag and report this content anonymously.

“The second thing the court has asked for is for the civil society and government organisations to put together a list of keywords that are used by people to search for these materials,” Sunitha explains. 

This, she adds, will help in curbing dissemination at the point of search.

The court has also asked for track and monitor hashtags which are used by people to upload and search for this content.

“These steps are towards blocking the search and circulation of these videos and to create a system for reporting. However, there are many things which remain to be addressed,” Sunitha points out. “For instance, what about the accountability of tech firms? Why should they not report such content on their platforms?” she questions.

Directing the Centre to abide by and implement the panel’s unanimous recommendations, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to submit a status report on the same on December 11. The court will then examine the recommendations made by the panel wherever there are differences in opinion.

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