Google, Facebook blocking search words related to child porn

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]ech giants Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo have started blocking keywords related to child pornography and sexual violence on their respective platforms in India. The companies are doing in this in an effort to curb the spread of such videos, according to a report by the Economic Times.

The keyword block is based on recommendations submitted by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology and the Ministry of Home Affairs. A search for these keywords now won’t return the desired result or will display a warning that such content is against the law and the platform’s policy.

“The internet companies have implemented the search word ban, but it is still not completely effective. Some words work, some don’t. We have tested 100 keywords on these platforms,” said Aparna Bhat, a lawyer representing Prajwala, a Hyderabad-based non-profit organisation in public interest litigation in the Supreme Court.

Road to the move

In May, the SC had imposed a fine on Yahoo, Facebook Ireland, Facebook India, Google India, Google Inc, Microsoft and WhatsApp for not following an earlier order by the apex court. The earlier order required the companies to inform the court of the progress made by them “pursuant to the recommendations accepted by these entities as mentioned in the Report of the Committee.”

This committee was formed on orders of the SC following Hyderabad-based NGO Prajwala’s PIL, which had requested the court to direct tech giants and social networking sites to act on child pornography and not allow such videos to be uploaded. “None of these entities has filed anything to show us the progress nor any of these entities is ready with any response pursuant to our aforesaid order,” noted the court, while penalizing the companies.

Advocate Aparna Bhat, the lawyer for Prajwala — a Hyderabad based NGO which brought in the petition — said the keyword block is not entirely effective. She found that some words work, while others don’t, after testing 100 keywords on the platforms.

Govt initiatives

As a result of the same petition, the SC directed the MHA to implement a standard operating procedure for dealing with complaints involving child pornography, and assigned a two-week deadline for the Centre. The next hearing for the case is scheduled in February 2019.

Apart from executive changes, the Centre has also stepped in to suggest changes at a legislative level. According to a TOI report, the Centre suggested amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to include a 5-year jail term for possession of child porn for commercial use, viewing, storage, or transmission and distribution. The new laws would also include penalties for not reporting child porn and possession of pornographic pictures on WhatsApp.