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SC asks Centre to convene meeting of stakeholder Internet giants and NGO

SC asks Centre to convene meeting of stakeholder Internet giants and NGO

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Centre to resume its meetings with internet intermediaries including Google, WhatsApp and Facebook for eliminating circulation of child pornography and rape videos and images.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde took note of the submissions of lawyer Aparna Bhat, representing Hyderabad-based NGO 'Prajwala', that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has not convened a meeting of all the stakeholders since December, 2018 to effectively deal with the circulation of rape and other obscene videos on social sites.

The top court, in 2015, had taken suo motu (on its own) cognizance of a letter written to the then CJI H L Dattu (since retired) alleging circulation of two rape videos. It had provided the videos in a pen-drive.

The bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant, said it would ask the MHA, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, to hold the meeting. Mehta assured the court that the MHA would convene the meeting and no order to this effect was needed to be passed.

Bhat said there have been differences between internet intermediaries and the NGO with regard to handling the circulation of rape or other such pornographic materials.

She said that as per the NGO, the circulation of such materials can be stopped at the outset, but intermediaries have been saying that action can be taken after these materials are brought to their notice.

"If an action to stop circulation of a rape video is taken after 36 hours then by that time it becomes viral," Bhat said, adding that the issue of child pornography falls under POCSO (the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) where mandatory reporting is needed.

Lawyer N S Nappinai, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae, suggested that artificial intelligence tools can be used to identify such objectionable contents to ensure their early elimination from social media platforms.

The bench asked Bhat to provide copy of status report to all parties to the case and fixed the plea for hearing after four weeks.

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