Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Microsoft have started blocking keywords related to child pornography and child sexual violence, reports the Economic Times. This comes just months after the Supreme Court imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on several tech companies for not updating the court about progress made in their plans to control child porn.

The keyword block is based on recommendations made by MeitY and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Now, a search of terms like ‘child sex’, ‘child porn’, ‘rape video’ shows a warning that such content in illegal under Indian laws. There is also a prompt to report it to the MHA’s cybercrime portal, and a Childline helpline.

Search result on Yahoo! India

Search result on Google India

Apart from English, keywords in Hindi and other unspecified languages are also included in the block.

In a statement, Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Laureate & Founder – Bachpan Bachao Andolan and Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, told MediaNama, “We are demanding an international convention against child sex abuse, and online pornography that should be supported by a new global task force—an inter-agency, inter-governmental task force—to combat child trafficking, child pornography, online child pornography, and sexual abuse.”

The MHA also launched the cybercrime portal only three months ago, and brought in several features to help victims and others report instances of online sexual abuse, rape, gang rape, child abuse, child sexual abuse content anonymously.

The lead up to the block

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 for controlling child pornography

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.