General Studies Paper 2
Context: The article discusses the threats associated with the use of the internet to children and measures needed to address those.
How are children vulnerable to the internet?
- Over the last few years and especially post-pandemic, access to the internet for children has increased for education, learning, and entertainment.
- Due to which, online sexual abuse of children has increased by 400 times.
- Therefore, the government is trying to revamp India’s Information Technology Act, 2000 and provide safe harbour to child safety.
Why is a safe harbour important for child safety?
- Safe harbour ensures that users can benefit from an open, free and safe internet, and protects people from the dangers of mass censorship by intermediaries.
- The current IT Act provides safe harbour protection to online intermediaries whereby platforms are liable to take down user-generated content on receiving ‘actual knowledge’ of its illegality through a court or government order.
- Therefore, increasing the accountability of online intermediaries is important.
- However, overarching restrictions on civil rights and dilution of safe harbour can impact user safety, as seen in the case of SESTA-FOSTA legislations of the US.
- Five years after its enactment, numerous reports came up suggesting that these laws had endangered the lives of sex workers. It made it difficult to gather evidence to investigate and prosecute traffickers.
- Therefore, the IT Act should be amended in such a way that it serves the purpose.
What changes can be made to the IT Act 2000?
- Adopting Tech-Based Solutions:The new IT Act must focus on expanding affirmative technology-based solutions to tackle child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and establish community hotlines for swift remedial measures. The Supreme Court of India also recommended these measures in the Prajwala case of 2018.
- Moreover, public-private partnerships to incentivize the growth of privacy-enabling technologies must be encouraged.
- Tech companies must use cutting-edge technologies, adopt global best practicessuch as end-to-end encryption and build new ways to identify and take action against perpetrators.
- Greater responsibility sharing and capacity enhancement:The new law should focus on deploying streamlined grievance redressal processes that intermediaries must adopt to efficiently respond to online harm.
- A process should be adopted for grading grievances according to the degree of harm and those related to CSAM proliferation should be addressed on an immediate basis.
- Intermediaries should also make their terms of service easily comprehensible for children and create easily accessible mechanisms for them to lodge complaints.
- Furthermore, improving law enforcement authorities’ capacity to conduct efficient investigations and prompt prosecutions.
- Sensitization and collaboration:Children should be included as equal participants in the fight against online child abuse. For instance, the Australian government is instituting a Youth Advisory Council, which will provide the administration feedback on online safety issues and measures to counter cyber-harm.
Many countries are also making efforts through their engagement of school systems to raise public awareness on the issue. It could be helpful to adapt such practices to Indian educational systems as well.