Govt order on child sexual content to create monopoly: ISPAI

The government order to block child sexual abuse content by using resources of a UK-based organisation will create monopoly and make it an expensive affair for companies, Internet service providers have said.

The Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) also demanded that the government should share the responsibility with industry as companies will pass on extra cost burden to consumers which would not be in the interest of 'Digital India' movement.

"The order issued by Meity (Ministry of Electronics and IT) to block child sexual abuse material (CSAM) is creating monopoly of an organisation where membership varies between 1,000 British pound and about GBP 78,000 (Rs 84,000- Rs 64 lakh). Government should also share responsibility with industry," ISPAI President Rajesh Chharia said.

The government on April 18 directed Internet service providers (ISP) to block distribution and transmission of child sexual abuse content by July 31.

Service providers are required to adopt and implement UK-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) resources to prevent distribution and transmission of offensive content.

Chharia said that the solution to block CSAM should be developed in the country, and the order is different from what the government had discussed with the industry.

"We were under impression that any one body in India will subscribe to the IWF and share it with other players as per rule till we do not develop an indigenous solution and the government will also provide support to the industry."

"The order, however, says that every Internet company with ILD permit will have to approach individually to IWF. The IWF will charge fees based on subscriber base of a company which will make it expensive for individual companies," Chharia said.

The order was issued after the recommendation of an inter-ministerial committee that was constituted to suggest solutions to address the issue of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) following a Supreme Court order.

The panel noted that most of the CSAM is being hosted outside India and the websites or web links to access such unlawful content are dynamic in nature and frequently changing which makes it difficult to block such content.

The panel noted that no centralised mechanism exists in India to monitor online CSAM. When asked about obligation of Internet firms to check transmission of CSAM, Chharia said that Internet companies cannot get into 'deep packet inspection' on what is being transmitted on to networks.

"Deep packet inspection will lead to violation of privacy and also is in violation to government's policy. We are committed to block CSAM but the responsibility should be shared by all, including government. ISPs will pass on extra cost burden to consumers which is not in the interest and spirit of Digital India movement," Chharia said.

The government has asked all the ISPs to continue to observe the existing due diligence requirements prescribed by the central government under the Information Technology Act 2000 and rules and regulations.

The publication or transmission of material depicting children in sexually explicit act or conduct in electronic form is heinous crime, specifically prohibited by section 67B of the IT Act 2000.
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