#AarambhIndiaImpact: Govt directs Indian ISPs to implement IWF URL Blocking List to Combat Child Sexual Abuse Material in India

On 18th April 2017, the Government directed the Indian Internet Service Providers to institute the blocking and distribution of child sexual abuse content. The Government Order instructs relevant ISPs to adopt Aarambh India’s hotline partner Internet Watch Foundation’s blocking list which contains URL’s containing child sexual abuse material. 1

Why was this order issued?

On 12th July 2013, the Supreme Court of India issued an order to the Union of India asking to come up with concrete steps to tackle the issue of online child sexual material. (This was in the content of the Kamlesh Vasvani V/s Union of India Case or more famously known as the case which resulted in the controversial porn ban incident in August 2015)

On 22nd March 2017, the Supreme Court reacting to a PIL by NGO Prajwala, put together a committee with representatives from the corporate and relevant government bodies and gave them a 15 day deadline to brain-storm solution.

The Government Order was the outcome of the presentation made by the committee to the Supreme Court.

What does the order state?

The order states that very little of child sexual abuse imagery has been found to be hosted in India. It also states that the dynamic nature of the internet makes it difficult to issue specific and effective blocking orders.

There is currently no centralized mechanism in India to monitor online child sexual abuse material.

There are very few blocking lists available in the world. The IWF list has been adopted across the world, in several jurisdictions. It manages to keep up with the dynamic nature of the internet. And it is available to ISPs of a subscription basis.

Until a centralized mechanism is developed within India, ISPs with cable landing point gateways 2 & international long distance licenses 3  in India are required to adopt and implement the IWF blocking list on or before 31st July 2017.

What is the Internet Watch Foundation URL Blocking List?

The Internet Watch Foundation is a not-for-profit based in the UK. The IWF URL Blocking List is a list of webpages where images and videos of child sexual abuse have been found. At any point of time, the list may contain 1000 to 5000 URLs.

The list can be used to block and filter child sexual abuse imagery on the public internet and prevent URLs with criminal content from appearing in search results.

The list is composed of URLs reported to the IWF through their various hotlines and networks. Also the IWF has been issued the mandate of actively monitoring the internet for child sexual abuse material.

The URL List is updated twice a day. New content is added to the list as IWF finds it. And URL is taken off the list once the criminal content has been removed. This helps keep up with the dynamic nature of the content and also prevents overblocking.

ISPs can access the URL list by subscribing for the same by paying a fee to the IWF for the services rendered.

What does this mean for online child safety and protection?

Online Child Safety and Protection requires a layered approach. And with this government order requiring adoption of the Internet Watch Foundation’s URL Blocking List is the first layer is now in its place.

It protects the rights and dignity of the victim children.

It safeguards the rights and dignity of the user and gives you a safer internet experience where your chances of stumbling across criminal content are reduced.

You can also help make the internet a safer place by reporting any child sexual abuse imagery you stumble upon at http://aarambhindia.org/report. If IWF analyses the report as indeed containing child sexual abuse imagery, it will be added to the blocking list.

What are the Challenges?

Like we said, the adoption of the list is just the first step. Blocking of the content is just a prelude to effective take down of the material and prevention of re-uploading. Consider this example: An anonymous report was made through the Indian Portal on  20/12/2016 . It was for content hosted on a cyberlocker. It showed baby girls and baby boys from a range of ethnicities. Worst of all the most severe abuse was happening to them; rape and sexual torture. Although the report was made by someone in India, the webpage was actually hosted in Russia  and it contained over 200 videos.  The time taken between the report being sent from India, to the time we notified the Russian Hotline was 1 hour and 7 minutes.  The Russian hotline acted swiftly and the content was removed in less than 24 hours.
The quick turnaround happened in the above case because of responsiveness of the systems in Russia. We need such a system in place.

The IWF list covers only the public internet. It does not work for encrypted websites and apps like whatsapp. Other solutions need to be put in place to address the same.

Click here to Read the Government Order

Click here for the IWF Press Release

  1. The Aarambh India – IWF hotline launched in September 2016 is India’s 1st Hotline for reporting online Child Sexual Abuse Imagery
  2. points where internet cables connect with India aka gateways
  3. silence to connect to networks operated by foreign carriers

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