The Government is leading yet another charge to strengthen the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) ecosystem, and in turn making the country a better and more secure place for children under duress.
The move is spearheaded by the 14 member Rajya Sabha ad-hoc committee with Mr. Jairam Ramesh as its chairman. On 3rd February, 2020, the committee put out its report titled ‘The alarming issue of pornography on social media and its effect on children and society as a whole’.
Consulting with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, the committee undertook an extensive study about the pressing matter and assigned Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) for the execution of the same.
Representatives from various NGOs like HERD Education and Medical Research Foundation, Centre for Child Rights, and Internet Freedom Foundation were also included in the drafting of this report.
- A new clause was proposed to be added in POSCO Act that makes passing any written material, visual representation, or audio recording, which advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of eighteen years, an offence.
- According to the report, it will be the intermediaries’ (online platforms) responsibility to maintain child safety online, ensure age appropriate content, and curb the spread of children pornographic content.
- The report also directs online platforms to identify and remove any Child Sexual Abusive Material (CSAM), and report to authorities, both domestic and international, regarding the same.
- Proposing amendments to the IT Act 2000 to plug gaps related to CSAM, the committee had the following two suggestions :-
- Adding a new section (67B) that prescribes punitive action against people responsible for providing children with access to pornographic material, and those who transmit, carry, or produce CSAM.
- To provide Union Governments the authority to block websites that carry CSAM.
- To permit the law enforcement agencies to break the end-to-end encryption to trace distributors of child pornography.
- To prohibit online payment portals and credit cards from processing payments for any pornographic website. Ministry of Home Affairs and MeitY be able to consult with Blockchain analysis companies to trace identities of users engaging in crypto currency transactions to purchase child pornography online.
- The committee suggested that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) should get an updated mandate that makes it the Nodal Agency to deal with the issue of Child Pornography.
- By providing the NCPCR with capabilities of cyber policing and prosecution, and making them closely work with other related bodies and ministries, the committee feels the issue would be dealt more efficiently.
- The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) should record and report the cases of child pornography annually with a National Tipline number for the same have been suggested.
- State level e-Safety commissioners to be appointed to ensure that the implementation of social media and website guidelines related to flagging of content and the removal of it, much like the Australian model which has seen glaring success.
These are the major takeaways to what seems like a monumental step into the direction of child safety in our country, it remains to be seen whether the implementation is on the same lines.