The conversation concerning child pornography on the darknet is heating up in India. Recently, Mumbai police busted a group of pedophiles, who were sharing images of child abuse, sexual abuse, and child rape over Whatsapp messenger services.
The illegal media material was reported to have been originally posted on the dark web before being circulated on the giant messaging and voice cross-platform messenger owned by Facebook. According to reports, Naugarh police arrested five suspects earlier in the month. They are said to be members of an international WhatsApp group used to circulate child pornography.
It is reported through local media that the group consisted of 217 members, seven of whom are outside the borders of India. The arrested five members were within the age bracket of 18 and 25 and are said to come from middle-class backgrounds. The arrests brought to light the disgusting behavior taking place in the local area. Outrage from local citizens and the law enforcement did not express enough the amount of shock the community was experiencing.
Although Indian authorities say child pornography materials on the darknet are few to be found on servers in that part of the world, the access is wide-ranging.
People develop the materials and anonymously post them there where they are in turn accessed easily on the deep web within moments. This has become quite a headache for local authorities and problematic for society in general.
According to a cybercrime expert identified as Ritesh Bhatia, the main concern is that the anonymous nature of the darknet makes it impossible to trace producers and consumers. In this case, it is the material that had been lifted off the deep web and taken to the mainstream messenger that led to arrests. He fears the activities would have remained hidden had they been consumed strictly on the darknet.
The simplicity of production does not make things any easier. Today, affordable smartphones are equipped with cameras that get the basic job done quite well. Therefore, any ill-intentioned member of the society can easily develop pornographic media that are consequently shared anonymously. The Inspector of Police (IG) of the cybercrime division confirmed this by saying that the increase in the vice is occasioned by availability. Furthermore, with these crimes being committed by mobile devices, the risk of being arrested by visiting a darknet marketplace (DNM) online is decreased dramatically.
As such, several organizations came out to condemn the actions and called for serious steps to be taken to stop it. The Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry spoke out last Wednesday about it. They reported that the union head minister, Maneka Gandhi, had a proposal on how to tackle the menacing problem. The proposal advocated for the formation of a Global Alliance tasked with identifying and eliminating child sexual abuse materials from the darknet. The global aspect of the internet makes it hardly impossible to be handled from one end, thus the need for joint international cooperation. They also suggested that countries that own and host servers where the material originates from should be held accountable for their consequent distribution.
Other solutions targeted parents who are tasked with the broader responsibility of protecting their children from harm. Creating an environment that allows them to beware of sexual predators and feel comfortable to report them should be encouraged. Many children fear to report abuse as they are met by harsh parents who reprimand them for their actions. Other parents fail to investigate on claims made by children even if they involve bodily harm that clearly points to abuse. Children are also not guided well on how to interact with strangers and which boundaries should or should not be crossed.
In India, children are protected from these gross violations by article 67B of the IT act which ‘prohibits recording, publication, transmitting and facilitating material in any electronic form showing children in sexually explicit acts.’ Additional social sites where such criminal materials are found on the clearnet are Facebook and Telegram. Even so, they are easier to counter and manage as they can apply an ISP blockade. On the darknet, however, they cannot be flagged nor reported – thus bearing a bigger risk on the protection of children.