Info-tech

MeitY ropes in DoT to get ISPs to implement ban on online child porn

Urvashi Valecha Mumbai | Updated on January 10, 2018 Published on September 20, 2017

The Ministry of of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has sought the help of the Department of Telecom to enforce its order in blocking online Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM).

The order has to be implemented by all the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) but so far only a handful of operators have deployed systems to block access to child pornography.

The deadline for compliance was July 31 but lack of consensus on how to implement the order has delayed it. MeitY had issued the order on April 18 making it mandatory for ISPs to enrol for services offered by UK-based not-for-profit agency Internet Watch Foundation. But most of the internet players have not complied with the order on grounds that subscribing to IWF membership was expensive for small players.

Alternative solution

IWF has, therefore, offered an alternative solution wherein only the primary Internet gateways, operated by large telecom operators, need to become members.

While it is not clear if any of the gateway operators have taken up IWF membership, senior officials at MeitY said only a few operators such as Airtel, Vodafone, Tata Telecommunications and Reliance Jio have confirmed that they have set up systems to implement the order on blocking CSAM.

“The government does not intend to withdraw the order and would ensure that the larger ISPs implement it first. Putting a filter for CSAM at the gateway will control the overall content traffic,” the official said, adding that the Centre may even conduct an audit on networks to make sure that ISPs have implemented the order.

MeitY has roped in DoT because ISPs operate under a licence issues by the telecom department. “As the licensor, DoT can ask ISPs to implement the order although content regulation comes under the purview of Meity,” said the official.

ISPs’ plea

The Internet Service Providers Association of India said the smaller operators should not be asked to pay for any solution. “If the gateway operators are going to implement a solution to filter out CSAM content then we are okay with it as long as the smaller ISPs do not have to pay for it. The government should finance such a solution,” said an ISPAI executive.

Pavan Duggal a cyber law expert said, that if the ISPs don’t comply with the order then the government has the right to invoke the provision of Section 17B (AB) of the Information Technology Act.

He said, “That becomes an offence punishable by one year of imprisonment or fine for ₹1 lakh or both.”

When contacted an IWF spokesperson said, “Providing a safer internet for India is clearly a complex issue, but one which we are here to support, however, we can. Protection for India’s citizens has always been our ultimate aim. We want to do this in the simplest way possible by working with technology companies and we’re doing everything we can to achieve this.”

The Supreme Court had earlier asked the Centre to take comprehensive steps to block child porn sites.

The writer is an intern with BusinessLine Mumbai Bureau

Published on September 20, 2017
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