Convene stakeholders' meeting to block child pornography: SC

February 12,2020

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to hold discussion with internet intermediaries, including Google, WhatsApp and Facebook, to develop a strategy to restrict circulation of rape videos, child pornography and images.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to hold discussion with internet intermediaries, including Google, WhatsApp and Facebook, to develop a strategy to restrict circulation of rape videos, child pornography and images.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant noted the submissions of advocate Aparna Bhat, appearing for Hyderabad-based NGO Prajwala. Bhat submitted a meeting, to deal with circulation of obscene content on social media platforms, is yet to be convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) involving all the stakeholders since December 2018.

Solicitor Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, submitted before the court the meeting on this matter would take place soon and asked the court not to pass any order. Bhat cited the difference in opinion between the NGO and internet intermediaries on the matter - NGO reckon the content can be blocked at the outset, but internet companies say materials have to be brought to their notice to take action.

Bhat said delay in action would eventually make the content go viral. She insisted that the issue of child pornography falls under POCSO (the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) and it's mandatory to report on it.

Lawyer N.S. Nappinai, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, suggested artificial intelligence tools could filter obscene content and help in its elimination. In 2015, the apex court had taken the suo motu cognizance of a letter written to the then Chief Justice H.L. Dattu alleging circulation of two rape videos and the video content was submitted in the court in a pen drive.

The top court on Tuesday said it will ask MHA to schedule a meeting on this matter.

The court asked Bhat to provide a status report to all parties to the case and scheduled the matter for further hearing after four weeks. In 2018, the apex court had said the Centre could lay down standard operating procedure (SoP) to block obscene content involving children.