Sharp rise in child pornography cases worry experts

Published on Jan 24, 2021 08:47 AM IST
  • Kerala seems to have made considerable progress in tackling the menace, statistics show.
The problem of child pornography on the internet and social media has increased during the pandemic, says an expert. (iStockphoto/Representative Image)
The problem of child pornography on the internet and social media has increased during the pandemic, says an expert. (iStockphoto/Representative Image)
By | Edited by Abhinav Sahay, Thiruvananthapuram

During a regular surveillance of the dark net, Kerala police’s cyber crime team came across a shocking visual of a minor girl, who was traced after three months of electronic surveillance of the IP address with the aide of special software, tools and the service provider, said an official.

The minor girl and the house, where the highly objectionable video was shot, were traced to an upmarket colony, just three km away from the police headquarters in the state capital and the offender turned out to be the girl’s uncle, said the police.

In Malappuram, another youth was found exploiting an eight-year-old girl and filming her inappropriately, after enticing her with toys and dolls. Even in this case, the accused was a relative of the unsuspecting and innocent girl. Other instances of use of malwares to tap the webcam of unsuspecting victims for either taking pictures or stealing information were also found, said police officials.

There seems to be no end to the menace of child pornography. Last January, a US-based NGO, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, handed over a list of 25,000 Tipline reports on suspected child pornography material uploaded on social media in India, triggered a heated discussion in the Parliament.

Kerala seems to have made considerable progress in tackling the menace, statistics show. Kerala Police Cyberdome—formed to meet the long term security challenges and to combat emerging cyber threats-- launched a special operation named P Hunt, which resulted in cracking 525 cases and arrest of 428 accused in two years, said the police.

Experts working in the area say active monitoring and action creates a deterrent effect.

“Our cyber monitoring cell patrols the dark net through geo-fencing (a real world geographic area) and we have some of the best software networks to help us with this. It is a strenuous job, once we identify an offender, we procure his IP address with the help of the service provider and his activities are monitored. Once the location is identified we make local inquiries discreetly and collect all digital evidence before booking the person,” says Manoj Abraham, additional director general of police, Cyberdome.

Around 100 well-trained officers are working in his team.

“We have different tools and software to go after individuals and groups catering to child pornography in social media. Since we are deeply invested in the programme, agencies like the Interpol, US-based International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, India Child Protection Fund, and others help us profusely,” he said, adding the situation worsened during the lockdown. He said some of the arrested were IT professionals and doctors among others. Some of them were repeated offenders and they need treatment, he added.

Watching or sharing child pornography images, videos and literature is a crime in India and can invite up to five-year jail and maximum fine of 10 lakh.

“The scourge is on the rise. Safety of children is everyone’s responsibility. People need to guard against the exploitation of the innocent,” said the decorated officer. In 2019, he received the Champion of Child Protection award.

Also Read: No clear definition, computer-aided offence a cybercrime: MHA report

Interpol secretary general Jurgen Stock recently said that the visible part of the problem was just the tip of the iceberg. He added that the issue aggravated during the pandemic.

“Many cases go unreported as parents fear stigma and taboo. Internet penetration is quite high these days. This offense can’t be prevented by police alone and parents and family members need extra care,” said a child rights activist.

She said in 60% of the cases, offenders are either family acquaintances or relatives and in 50% cases, pornographic materials were filmed or shot without the knowledge of the abused child.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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