In a shocking revelation, a covert operation done by a Hyderabad-based NGO revealed that Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) is being openly circulated on Telegram, an instant messaging application.
The founder of Prajwala, Sunitha Krishnan, said that the circulation of such sexually exploitative content of children threatens their safety and security. The demand for such child sexually abusive material will accelerate child trafficking for sexual exploitation, she said.
A complaint has been lodged with DGP Anjani Kumar by Prajwala members on November 14.
“On the occasion of Children’s Day, I wanted to raise this issue and question the safety and security of children we have in this day and age. Some of the children in the videos were as young as three and four years old. In a span of a few days from October 27 to November 10, we were able to get 38 GB of CASM content through Telegram groups/channels for a mere ₹600,” said Ms. Krishnan.
“Each of these groups have about 30,000 plus members. When we tried to demand for a quicker delivery of the content, one of the users replied that he was in tuition and had to finish his classes,” she said.
The Cyberabad Cyber Crime police meanwhile said that they have received complaints about such explicit content being shared on the messaging application. “The latest complaint was in September when a petition was received stating that a rape video was being circulated for money on the platform,” said the officials.
As many as 969 cases pertaining to the online transmission of CSAM were registered, as per the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The number of cases were 805 in 2021, 842 in 2020 and just 164 in 2019. .
Earlier this year in August, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Bangladesh also busted a Telegram-based child and teen pornography racket and arrested nine people in the port city and the capital in the span of two days. The officials claimed that the racket used to blackmail and sell sensitive/indecent videos of children and teens for over a year
Dr. Krishnan alleged that Telegram is facilitating communication of sellers and co-sellers of CSAM and explicit material in the form of links, zip files and private channels. “It is not verifying the identity of its users and is allowing them to keep random pseudonyms to conceal their identity. It is providing an avenue to promote and advertise such sale of CSAM material and providing private messaging options with end-to-end encryption to carry out transactions to purchase such material. The encryption settings allow the admin and owner to prevent taking screenshots, copying links and collection of any evidence,” she said.
“Such criminal activities are in violation of Section 13 of the POCSO Act, Sections 66A, 66E, 67,67 A 67B and 72 of the Information Technology (IT) Act as well as Rule 3 and 4 of the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021,” she explained.
While trying to reach out to the ‘Press Team’ of Telegram for a statement, a bot-generated reply said that ‘request has been submitted’. No response has been received at the time of going to the press.