Net Neutrality laws in India are hindering the social good

– Bhagwat Guha, M.Sc MACS, IGNOU

Net Neutrality in India: The Open Internet Enables Pedophiles. .

Net Neutrality in India is a heated topic, with a number of celebrities championing the cause of the open and free internet. While the idea might not be bad, it does have its drawbacks and they need to be discussed. One of the major problems of the open internet today is child pornography. Child pornography is an (in)famous global menace. From former US gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar – who had over 37,000 images in his possession when he was sentenced – to the recent arrest of three Pakistani men for running a child porn ring, the guilty are well known.

The lack of official numbers makes it difficult to assess how widely prevalent the practice is in India. However, 2013-14 NCRB data shows a 100% increase in the publication and transmission of obscene material, including child pornography. Cases are unreported, and the ones that do get caught are usually through tip-offs from international agencies.

Cybercrime cells are struggling to keep up when more than a fifth of all internet pornography is child-focused. The government tried banning all pornographic sites but it didn’t work out. Now it is setting up the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (IC4) which would focus on eliminating child pornography. However, it is looking at the symptoms rather than the disease.

Net Neutrality in India can facilitate cyber crime

The open nature of the Internet makes it easy for online paedophiles to connect to their victims. Now, they can access everything from social networking sites to bulletin boards to anonymized, peer-to-peer networks and victimize children. Unsuspecting users can be duped easily; a violent video involving a minor was circulated by thousands of viewers on Facebook Messenger, ostensibly to identify the man in the video. This ‘concern trolling’ led to everyone sharing it being implicated in the crime without any punishment for the original perpetrator.

These communities are free spaces for predators to share experiences and methods without a fear of being caught. Such communication also normalises sexual fetishes about children and degrades the victims into something less than human.

The lack of control means children as young as five today stumble on pornographic material while searching for something else. This traumatises them and can lead to degenerative behaviour later on. A survey by Bangladeshi NGO Manusher Jonno Foundation reveals that 77% of boys aged 11 to 18 actively watch porn where the performers are underage.

Net Neutrality in India should be repealed

Repealing net neutrality would empower Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to legally nip the problem in the bud by using their discretion to block access to any objectionable content. In the future, ISPs could also use specially trained AI neural nets to identify harmful sites and register official complaints with the IC4.

This decentralized structure would also allow users to quickly reach out to their ISP in case they notice something objectionable.  More than 50,000 predators are online at any moment; a controlled space is a perhaps the only way to delete them.

Read more on how Net Neutrality in India is hampering universal access and how net neutrality in India is affecting telecom revenue and growth.

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