Nilanjana
GOVERNMENT CALLS FOR CHANGES IN "POCSO ACT" TO STOP ONLINE CHILD ABUSE
Nilanjana Ganguly 30 Jan 2020

GOVERNMENT CALLS FOR CHANGES IN

"GOVERNMENT CALLS FOR CHANGES IN 'POCSO ACT' TO STOP ONLINE CHILD ABUSE"


POCSO ACT (THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN FROM SEXUAL OFFENSES ACT)

 

·         The panel that took part in the meeting was created by Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu in 2019 December.

·         Committee demands for change in meaning of 'child pornography' under the POCSO Act.

·         The committee had recent discussions with Twitter, Facebook and Google.

 

A panel of parliamentarians, formed by Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu to curb child abuse online, has suggested a dedicated mechanism for dealing with child sex crimes online.  The panel also called for improvements to the definition of ' child pornography ' under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

In December 2019, the panel was formed to look at possible legislative provisions to address online child exploitation.

Reportedly, the panel wants the POCSO Act to include the act of "promoting or advocating sexual activity" as an offense to a minor. The MPs may also request an international monitoring platform on cybercrime to promote coverage of sexual crimes against children from around the world. Microblogging website Twitter and global tech giant Google have come under the scanner of the Indian government for not doing enough to prevent porn and allowing for easy access to child abuse videos for young users. A parliamentary committee has been seeking answers on the same.

 

POLICIES THE SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES HAVE ON PORN CONTENT --

TWITTER - Twitter said at the meeting that the microblogging platforms allow users to share porn shot consensually. Twitter also clarified that it does not allow any kind of material for porn revenge or child abuse, and has a zero tolerance policy for child sexual exploitation.

GOOGLE - Google reportedly told the panel that its search engine and YouTube have restricted the search for any such abusive content. The company told the legislature committee that requires YouTube to log in to watch adult or pornographic content to ensure the viewer is over the age of 18.

 

 

According to the annual report of the home ministry in October 2019, about 71 videos of child pornography, murder, and gang rape were taken off social media, among other offences. A list of 500 keywords used to search these videos was also collected to look into it and shared with service providers such as Google, Yahoo, Twitter, WhatsApp and Microsoft.

In September 2018, the government launched a website to file complaints about inappropriate online content. More than 10 thousand complaints relating to child pornography online content and child sex abuse was reported on the site until 31 March 2019. The centralized platform aims to provide citizens with easy access so that they can report illegal content.

The committee formed by the Indian Government to further investigate the matter has members from ten political parties and was originally set up as an "informal panel" to study on the web issues related to pornographic content. It was later converted into an ad hoc committee, following the panel's logistics problem.

The panel also has plans to hold talks with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights. The panel will eventually also have consultations with civil society groups, child psychiatrists, teachers, experts, parents and government agencies such as the CERT-In and law enforcement agencies.

 

INDIA AND CYBER BULLYING --

The risk of cyberbullying of Indian children has increased over the years. India ranks much higher when it comes to cyberbullying compared with other Asian countries, according to available data. The rise can be felt with the number of cases we get these days. For instance, a Class V student approached us for a fake Facebook profile created to defame him. Similarly, a Class VIII girl's Facebook account was hacked for personal vendetta.

Studies show that 53% of Indian kids in the age group of eight to seventeen years have been subjected to cyber bullying at least once. Cyber bulling has also had a sociological and physiological impacts on young minds.

 

STARTING OF CYBER BULLYING --

Cyberbullying can be classified as -direct attacks and proxy bullying. Direct cyber attacks, are those in which the attacker targets the victim via:

·         Whatsapp and messaging on Messenger application

·         Putting up fake information on blogs and private information online

·         Denting the victim's image by posting obscene content or hate messages in chat rooms.

·         Sharing pornographic contents via email or messages

·         Spamming the victim's email address with junk mails

·         Trojans(malicious software) is used for hacking remotely, disable computer system's camera's LED which will notify the user that the camera is on. It is used to follow and exploit actions of kids(specially girls).

·         Creating an online poll with the particular victim's name to body shame and defame or embarass the person

 

NEW THREATS AND CHALLENGES --

As social media continues to evolve, the threat of child abuse often appears in new avatars such as the Sarahah and Blue Whale Challenges. While the BWC is a web game, Sarahah is another online application that challenges the player to do 50 tasks that often drive the child to suicide and allows people to post anonymous comments that are often rude, offensive, and humiliating.  Anonymity of Sarahah makes it a potential threat, as it can be used for blackmailing as well as to send offensive messages looking for sexual benefits.

Such online requests often expose children to a higher risk of online abuse, bullying or even suicide.

 

WHY ARE KIDS TARGETTED ?

There is no specific answer to 'why children?' And data indicate that the burden of child abuse often lies on children. This is mainly because it is easy for offenders to use them. Also, online abuse often causes academic loss and disturbs the mental health of a child. when a child has the fear of restrictions of being imposed on internet usage and use of mobile, does not allow the kid to share such incidents with the parents.

 

PREVENTING CHILD ABUSE --

 Parents can play a vital role in curtailing child abuse, by being more vigilant and following a few guidelines :

·         To restrict and monitor certain websites by using parental monitoring software applications.

·         Set rules for the suitable use of computers, cell phones, and other technologies.

·         Monitoring the child's online activities

·         Report cyber bullying incidents to the nearest police station.

 

PARENTAL GUIDELINES TO PREVENT CHILD ABUSE --

·         NEVER SHARE PASSWORDS WITH ANYONE, EXCEPT PARENTS

·         Teach your children to save evidence of abuse (harassing messages, sexually explicit pictures, or threatening texts) and not to respond to them

·         They should attend cyber awareness programmes (online/offline)

·         Never allow children to make new friends online

·         Check the confidentiality of their social media account. Teach them to keep personal information private.

Note that online abuse is frightening because the abused child often thinks there is no way out because the abuser can offend anytime, anywhere, even when the child is home. The only way to protect your child from online perverts is to be confidential.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE --

·         The Committee has recommended a number of significant changes to the POCSO Act, 2012 and the IT Act, 2000, with corresponding changes to be made in the Indian Penal Code.

·         A provision to be included in the POCSO Act 2012 in which any written material is used to promote or suggest sexual activities with a person under the age of 18 years; The offense under the Act is rendered by visual representation or audio recording or by any characterization.

·         Another clause to be inserted in the POCSO Act 2012 which stipulates a Code of Conduct for intermediaries (online platforms) to maintain online child safety, ensure age-appropriate content and curtail children's use for pornographic purposes.

·         Under the 2012 POCSO Act, school management should be responsible for the safety of children within school premises, transport services and any other programs that are related to the school.

·         National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal shall be known as the national portal under-reporting criteria in the POCSO Act in case of electronic content.

·         A new section will be included in the IT Act 2000, which provides for punitive measures for those providing pornographic access to children as well as for those accessing, producing or transmitting child sexual abuse material.

·         Union Government shall be empowered to block and/or ban all websites / intermediaries carrying material of child sexual abuse through its specified authority.

·         The IT Act to be amended makes intermediaries responsible for all measures aimed at proactively identifying and removing CSAM and reporting it to the Indian authorities, as well as to foreign authorities. Gateway Internet Service Providers (ISP's) have a significant responsibility for detecting and blocking CSAM websites. It is also for the intermediaries to report to the designated authority, IP addresses / identities of all child porn / CSAM keyword searches / accesses.

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