NHRC issues notice to Centre, States, UTs over increase in Child Sexual Abuse Material on social media

Taking suo motu cognisance of a media report that circulation of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) had increased by 250 to 300 percent on social media in India, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre, state governments and Union Territories, directing them to file a detailed report on steps taken to prevent such menace.

The Commission observed that the content of media report, if true, amounted to a violation of human rights relating to the life, liberty and dignity of citizens, along with protection of young children from the danger of their sexual abuse on social media.

The Commission issued notices to the Commissioner of Police, Delhi; the Director Generals of Police of all States/UTs, the Director of National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) and the Secretary of the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, calling for a detailed report in the matter within six weeks.

Reportedly, the CSAM contents were from foreign, and the Indian Investigation Agencies have not come across any Indian-made CSAM so far.

The media report published on May 15, 2023 said that about 450207 cases of child sexual abuse material have been reported in 2023 so far. Out of these, Delhi Police has taken action in 3039 cases. Of these, 447168 cases were currently being studied.

In some cases, even photographs taken lovingly of young children by respective fathers, brothers and sisters in India have been classified as child sexual abuse by an American NGO.

The report said 204056 cases were reported in 2022, 163633 in 2021 and 17390 2020 of child sexual abuse material on social media in India.

The Commission said it has been concerned with the ill-effects of online child sexual abuse material on human rights, which may cost irreparable psychological damage on children, impacting their growth and development.

The Commission said it has been organising dialogues from time to time in the recent past to come out with ways and means to check this menace.

On March 2 and 3, 2023, the Commission said it organised a national seminar on CSAM at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, which was also addressed by Union Minister of Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju and Union Minister of State for Electronics & IT, Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

It said on July 21, 2020, the Commission had organised an online National Conference on the subject with valuable inputs from international organisations, government ministries, law enforcement agencies, national and state commissions, civil society groups, domain experts, and parents' associations.

The Commission had also issued a 'Human Rights Advisory for the Protection of Rights of Children in the Context of Covid-19' on September 29, 2020 and June 2, 2021, respectively, wherein it made recommendations to the concerned authorities regarding cybercrime and online safety of children.

These pertained to using the cybercrime reporting portal and PRAGYATA Guidelines for Digital Education.

A 'Discussion on Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) was also held on November 4, 2022, wherein various domain experts brainstormed on the nature, extent and different manifestations of the issue of CSAM, added the Commission.