New Delhi: India gets its first internet hotline to encourage people to report online child pornography. The hotline is aimed at curbing a surge in photographs and videos on the internet showing children being sexually exploited and making the internet a secure place for children.
The hotline will be run by Aarambh initiative under anti-trafficking NGO Prerana. Its co-director Siddharth Pillai said that it would be the first step to removing online images.
“First report, then block, and then take down,” said Mr Pillai.
“Blocking can happen within a couple of hours of reporting, while taking the content down could take up to a week depending on the country where the servers are hosted,” he added.
The hotline (www.aarambhindia.org/report) is a simple online form which the public, police, internet companies and victims can access in either Hindi or English.
Child sexual abuse imagery is a global problem, say experts. The majority of images are found in North America and Europe as the internet service is most developed, with huge capacity and high speeds, coupled with big server centres.
There is no accurate data on the number of Indian children being exploited in pornographic material – either being forced to show their sexual organs or made to engage in sexual acts – as many victims do not go to the police due to fear and shame.
In 2015, 96 reports of children being sexually exploited in online imagery were reported in India – a rise of 140 per cent from 2014, according to National Crimes Records Bureau data.
Susie Hargreaves, Chief Executive of Britain’s Internet Watch Foundation, which runs an established child pornography hotline, said the facility in India was much-needed.
“When the Internet Watch Foundation was set up in 1996, 18 per cent of the world’s child sexual abuse images were hosted in the UK,” Ms Hargreaves said.
“Today that is 0.2 percent because of our work with the internet industry. We want to help India develop a clean, safe internet to use and to side-step the issues which the UK had,” she added.
The Internet Watch Foundation will analyse reports on the hotline to check if the victim is a child and assess the severity of the abuse.
With the help of the Internet Watch Foundation’s 120 partners, such as tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, the material is traced to where the server is hosted. It is then blocked, eventually removed from the internet and the information shared with police for prosecution.