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~By Sujit Bhar

The Supreme Court, which had earlier taken suo moto action regarding a writ by anti-trafficking organisation Prajwala (who had sent a letter and videos to the Chief Justice of India), turning it into a Criminal Writ Petition, had also directed the Union Government to not only take necessary steps to curb cyber crime against women and children, but to ensure that sex crime videos aren’t made available on the Internet.

It was regarding the second issue, that the apex court bench of Justices MB Lokur and UU Lalit had, on December 5, also asked tech firms Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, WhatsApp and Facebook to suggest ways to eliminate such sex offence videos from social networking sites and to appear before the court.

Regarding the first part of the court’s directives, the Ministry of Home Affairs said it had set up a committee to look into the issues relating to cyber crimes and to suggest a roadmap for effectively tackling cyber crimes in the country and giving suitable recommendations on all facets of cyber crime.

The court had directed that the schemes, along with a copy with the final decision taken on publishing a National Sex Offenders List as well as the progress with regard to the Investigative Units for Crime Against Women (IUCAW) be filed.

On Wednesday it was the turn of the internet companies to appear before the court and present their versions. Their submissions were of similar nature, saying that it was technically very difficult to search out such scenes and block or delete them. This is what they said:

Yahoo: Its legal counsel said they don’t want the police sitting in their office. He said: “It’s difficult to decide (without seeing the content), what should be blocked and what should not be.”

Google: Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the search engine giant, submitted: “It is difficult to distinguish rape scenes and gang rape scenes just by searching on a word or words and it is very difficult to differentiate and block the search.” He said Google takes off the contents after 48 hours. But by then damage is done.

Facebook: Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, the counsel, submitted: “We cannot block every video. Some videos come with masked captions and at times it comes with masked introduction. So it is not easy to filter every objectionable video.”

Yahoo, Google India, Facebook Microsoft India are to get instructions on the above and file affidavits within two weeks.

The government’s action

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh submitted that Cyber Crime Prevention Against Women And Children (CCPWC) had been set up to monitor and take action against the cyber crime against women and children.

The Unblocking method

Meanwhile, the intervenor put in her solution: “Prevention is the only cure,” she said. She submitted that in the West they use something called the “Unblocking method”. This was the video and pictures be blocked at the entry point itself and makes the person who uploaded it to approach the service provider to unblock.

Blocking at entry point is on the basis of certain key words. The intervenor said that during her research she had come across a video captioned “Gang rape of a Delhi woman”. It had already reached six lakh views by the time it was blocked. It is not difficult to identify and block, she contended.

Two suggestions which came out of all the submissions:

  1. A central institutional mechanism has to be formed. To this suggestion the Union submitted that the CCPWC is already in place to check the cyber crimes.The petitioner suggested that investigation should be on the basis of complaints as well as suo moto. The government was to get back on this within two weeks.
  2. This “Unblocking method” may be looked into.

The case has been listed for February 21.

Lead picture: The Supreme Court had said that sex crime videos shouldn’t be made available on the Internet. The image uploaded is a representative one. Photo: Anil Shakya

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