Navi Mumbai cybercrime cops clamp down on violations against kids
A week after Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s speech in the Lok Sabha on the growing menace of child pornography in the country, the Navi Mumbai cybercrime cell has identified 21 people across the city who published child pornographic content on social media.
In the past one week, the police have arrested four people for such crimes and are working to trace more, officials said.
“We are tracing the 21 accused and strict action will continue against the people. In many cases, the people are emboldened as they feel the virtual world provides them a cover of anonymity, but our investigations always uncover it,” said Jayraj Chaparia, senior police inspector from cybercrime cell, Navi Mumbai
Among the four arrested, the Kopar Khairane police have arrested a house painter and a BMS graduate working with a private firm while the Uran police and NRI police station have arrested one person each.
The cyber cell sprang into action after the National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal (NCCRP) supplied them with the suspected URLs commonly known as web addresses.
In one case, a painter Amit Hussain, 25, bought a phone using documents of his roommate. Hussain arrived from Madhya Pradesh to find a job in the city and was staying in a chawl, said police. He uploaded a pornographic content involving a minor child on his social media account which NCCRP later traced.
The BMS graduate Suraj Sachdev, 29, allegedly told police that he found the video innocent which involved a “disrobed child with his parents”.
Police, however, said they have not verified his claims during investigations at the police station although the NCCRP has provided them with a video CD.
“The duo was arrested and produced in court which released them on bail. With the strict action, we hope those misusing social media will be warned from indulging in this crime,” said Nishikant Vishwakar, inspector at Kopar Khairane police station.
Cyber cell officers said they have not come across a sustained racket where child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is being circulated since it is already actively blocked at the central level. Officials termed these arrests sporadic.
Navi Mumbai police commissioner Sanjay Kumar recently held a session with college students to educate them on the use of social media.
“Youngsters spend quite a lot of time on social media and often some people would send a link or a post containing obscenity without thinking how it will be perceived by the receiver,” added Chaparia.
In WhatsApp groups, it is likely you are a part of a group where more than half of the group members are not known to you.
In such cases, it is likely that someone would post a mischievous link on the group, said police.
Cybercrime investigator Ritesh Bhatia blamed the cases on lack of awareness.
“People need to be made aware that not just storing it but also viewing it is a crime. Companies need to do more to block it at the root level,” said Bhatia.
While the police keep a watchful eye on social media during elections throughout the year, officials said admins of the groups are asked to ensure civility is maintained in these groups and uploading of CSAM is reported to the police at the earliest.
Cyber psychologist Nirali Bhatia said India has two types of CSAM users — actual paedophiles and accidental CSAM users, who watch it for curiosity, both of which are a criminal offence.
“Accessibility to internet has changed the way crimes are committed. The nature of the internet is such that even after one block CSAM at one end, it will surface through other social media,” she added.
Bhatia said that in some cases the police fall short in taking immediate action against the perpetrators.
In one such case, in a village in rural Maharashtra, villagers spotted a teenage couple sitting cosily. The men forced the couple to perform sexual acts and recorded it and posted it viral on the social media. The accused were arrested.
In cases involving people actively searching for CSAM content, they fall directly on the wrong side.
“There is a huge responsibility on popular social media platforms to help the police arrest the criminals. The companies would give excuses like privacy but they should understand that nothing comes above child protection,” Bhatia added.
While there is a market for CSAM in the western countries and in eastern states, Ritesh said India has not reached that stage but most of these creators of CSAM do so for personal sense of achievement and circulate it with the help of easily available data.
“From the perspective of a child, who is victimised, it is more scaling towards exploitation than a systematic monetary profit from the CSAM,” he added.
In a statement in July last year, the Ministry of Women and Child Development said, “The government blocks the websites containing extreme Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) based on interpol’s worst-of-list shared periodically by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is the National Nodal Agency for Interpol. The list is shared with Department of Telecommunications (DoT), who then directs major Internet Service Providers to block such websites.”