The Internet, which is considered a boon for today’s world, also has its dark sides. One serious challenge among these is that of child pornography. There have been efforts to prevent it all over the world, but the biggest hurdle in this comes from the complexities of rules and regulations. Determining who is responsible for videos or images of children being sexually exploited on the Internet is a very complex task. Be it internet service providing companies or social media groups, everyone wants to avoid accountability, but the Government of India has now decided to be strict about it. Last week, the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has sent notices to three big social media intermediary companies. YouTube, X (old Twitter) and Telegram have been ordered to remove or disable child sexual abuse materials from their platforms. The three companies have been warned that if they delay in complying with the order, they will lose the legal protection provided under the ‘Safe Harbor’ provision in Section 79 of the IT Act. Due to the safe harbor provision included in the IT Act of 2000, these social media companies have got legal relief regarding the materials that the users share. With the end of this protection, these companies will come under the ambit of the IT Act, which has provisions for stringent punishment and fine for broadcasting child sexual abuse material on the internet.
Union Electronics and IT Minister Rajiv Chandrashekhar has said that the government is committed to making the Internet a safe and reliable medium. While presenting the outline of the proposed new Digital India Act in March this year, Union Minister Chandrashekhar had also said that this provision providing relief to companies is being reconsidered. In March this year, the National Human Rights Commission had held a meeting on the challenge of child sexual abuse materials, in which it was told that there was a sharp increase in the number of such materials. Various aspects related to the problem were discussed with representatives of various sections including internet companies in Delhi and problems were identified. To ensure that children are safe and the Internet does not become a den of crime, a proper strategy should be made as soon as possible. Awareness about this should also be increased, so that every section of the society becomes alert and responsible about such crimes.