KOCHI/T’PURAM: The Kerala Police’s decision to make Operation P-Hunt functional round the clock points to the alarming rise in viewing and sharing of online child pornography materials. Officers say the arrest of 41 people on Monday for circulating pictures and videos with child sexual abuse content through messenger services, like WhatsApp and Telegram, was just the tip of the iceberg. They said many more would be arrested in the coming days as they are tracking the details of many offenders.
Interpol, the international organisation that facilitates worldwide police cooperation and crime control, has been monitoring the rise in online consumption of child porn in Kerala since 2011. The police decided to set up a special cell to monitor the online distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) in the state and users involved in it after a discussion with Interpol.
ADGP Manoj Abraham, who is the nodal officer of CyberDome which monitors social media for child porn content, said P-Hunt has been now made a 24/7 operation considering the gravity of the situation.
Police officers say the statewide campaign has resulted in thousands of active viewers of CSAM in video formats from exiting many social media groups on WhatsApp and Telegram which were exclusively created to circulate the CSAM.
Activities of these groups have increased with children getting more hooked on to online activities, especially after regular classes moving online due to the pandemic. “Children are hooked on to devices because of online activity. This has resulted in making them more vulnerable and exposed them to the activities of fraudsters,” Manoj said.The probe has revealed that there are major groups with about 50,000 members operating and sharing child pornography.
The state’s first list of child porn surfers came from Interpol through CBI in November 2011. A case against 20 people was registered based on the IP details of the devices used by the accused to browse the content.Cyber security expert and Data Security Council of India member Manu Zacharia said the heightened surveillance has resulted in tracking of such groups that are into the circulation of CSAM. “There are particular online protocols to detect uploading and downloading of the CSAM. Round-the-clock surveillance of the cyberspace will enable agencies to book more offenders,” he said.
An India Child Protection Fund report on ‘Demand for child pornography and pilot deterrence using artificial intelligence’ in April 2020 found that individuals across the country were explicitly demanding child pornography content on various platforms, with the trends indicating high demand in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram among other main cities.The report said a large number of individuals were found to be concealing their location and criminal activities by using VPNs (virtual private networks) to circumvent government regulation and platform security.
All eyes on Kerala
The Interpol has been monitoring the rise in online consumption of child porn in Kerala since 2011
The state’s first list of child porn surfers came from the Interpol in November 2011. Twenty people were booked.
An ICPF report in 2020 indicated high demand for child porn content in Kochi and T’Puram among other main cities