Alarmed at pornography and adult videos floating in WhatsApp groups, the Indian government has proposed new rules to crack down on child pornography shared and distributed through chat apps. The government has reportedly proposed several amendments in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act that will ensure that people who share pornographic clips of minors get up to seven years in jail and no bail, along with hefty fines.
The proposed rules also make it mandatory for anyone who gets a child porn video to report it to authorities. Failure to alert authorities about the video will result in hefty fines.
A report said that the changes in the Act are “awaiting the approval of the law ministry and the ministry of women and child development” and that they are going to be cleared within weeks after which they will be sent to the cabinet.
The amended Act reportedly notes that anyone who stores or shares child pornography with an intent to reshare it on WhatsApp, particularly for commercial purposes, will be punished with a jail sentence of up to 3 years in jail. The second instance of such offence will result in a sentence of not less than five years and up to seven years.
While the amended Act doesn’t prescribe punishment to any WhatsApp users who receive child porn videos on his or her phone accidentally or inadvertently, it makes it mandatory for the users to report such videos to authorities. Also such users, after reporting the video, must delete it. Failure to report the video will result in a fine of Rs 1000 in case of first-time offence and subsequently a fine of no less than Rs 5000.
India has the highest number of WhatsApp users in the world and given the nature of the app, and given the fact that it is often used by a group of people to share content, sharing of porn videos has become almost endemic on the app. While watching and storing pornographic videos featuring adult porn actors is not illegal in India, sharing pornographic videos, particularly for commercial purposes, is unlawful. Child pornography in its entirety — that means storing such clips, recording them, sharing them or watching them — is illegal. But the new rules now aim to plug the loophole that could be used by some — “I didn’t know about it and got it on WhatsApp” — to share or watch child pornography.