Rajya Sabha panel suggests breaking encryption to trace distributors of child sexual abuse content

The Rajya Sabha panel studying the problem of child sexual abuse material on social media has recommended multiple changes to the Information Technology Act and its intermediary rules, including allowing law enforcement agencies to break encryption to trace people distributing such material.

The report, submitted on Saturday by a panel headed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, comes at a time when the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) is in the final leg of notifying amendments to the intermediary guidelines of the IT Act to curb misinformation on social media. The RS panel report may further delay the notification by the government if MeitY chooses to incorporate some of the recommendations.

ET has reviewed the 21-page report.

The report suggests that modifying the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011 to include the ability to trace the originator or sender of the message shared on end-to-end encryption platforms in cases where child sexual abuse content that has been shared has come to the attention of law enforcement agencies.

It also added that intermediaries should be responsible for proactively identifying and removing such content and report it to Indian authorities. Intermediaries must report IP addresses, identities of all those searching or accessing child porn on the Internet.

The panel also stated that that gateway internet service providers must bear a significant liability to detect and block websites showing child sexual abuse content, and all search engines must ensure that such websites are blocked during the search and report any website to authorities.

The panel said intermediaries should be penalised if they fail to takedown child sexual abuse content within a specified timeframe.

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Apart from amending the rules pertaining to intermediaries, the panel also suggested amending the IT Act to include some new sections.

It recommended adding a new section to punish those who provide pornography access to children and also those who access, produce or transmit child sexual abuse material. It added that the IT Act must empower the union government through a designated authority to block all websites or intermediaries that carry child sexual abuse content.

The panel said the law must be amended to prohibit websites from knowingly using a misleading internet domain name with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material that is obscene or harmful.

The panel said all social media platforms to adhere to uniform benchmark practices in regulating and taking-down content.



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