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Apple New Software Update to scan Child Sexual Abuse Material on devices

Apple New Software Update to scan Child Sexual Abuse Material on devices


  • GS 3 || Science & Technology || Information and Communication Technology || Internet

Why in the news?

  • Apple has announced that software updates later this year will bring new features that will help protect children from predators who use communication tools to recruit and exploit them and limit the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM).

What is CSAM?

  • Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) is any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (a person less than 18 years old). It reflects the sexual abuse and exploitation of children in the online world.
  • More than just videos and images, CSAM can be found in virtually any online realm.
  • These images and videos not only document victims’ exploitation and abuse, but when these files are shared on the internet, child victims are re-victimized each time the image of their sexual abuse is viewed.

What is sexual abuse?

  • Any sexual act between an adult and a minor, or between two minors, in which one exerts power over the other.
  • Forcing, coercing, or persuading a child to perform any sexual act.
  • Non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, pornography, voyeurism, and sexual communication over the phone or the Internet.

Impact  on Children

  • Sexual abuse of any kind hurts a child’s physical and mental development.
  • Obesity and eating disorders are more common in women who have been sexually abused as children.
  • Sexual behaviour issues and over-sexualized behaviour are common outcomes of child sexual abuse.
  • Academic difficulties in childhood are a common sign of sexual abuse.
  • Long-term mental health issues are a common long-term result of child sexual abuse.
  • Adult survivors of sexual abuse as a child are more likely to become involved in crime, both as a perpetrator and as a victim.
  • Anger, anxiety, sadness, or low self-esteem are examples of emotional problems.

Constitutional provisions that deal with the rights of children 

  • Article 21: provides for the right to life and personal liberty
  • Article 21 (a):State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years
  • Article 24:No child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
  • Article 39(f):children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and moral and material abandonment.

A report of 2020

  • In a global compilation of reports of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)found online, India stands on top of the list, with 11.7% of the total reports followed by Pakistan, which contributes 6.8% of all reports.
  • The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) encourages people to report CSAM found online around the world on their online platform CyberTipline on an annual basis.
  • Three of the top four countries were in South Asia, raising concerns about the region’s children’s online safety.

Countering online child sexual exploitation and abuse

  • The Council of Europe created an information and education campaign for adults and children in sports to draw attention to the risks to children of sexual abuse.
  • Law enforcement investigations are among the most prominent means to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • National, regional, and international law enforcement agencies investigate online child sexual exploitation and abuse and cooperate in the investigation of these cybercrimes.
    • For example, in Operation Tantalio, INTERPOL, Europol, and law enforcement agencies from 15 countries in Europe, Central America and South America cooperated in the investigation of child sexual abuse material distributed via WhatsApp.
  • Cooperation between the private sector and government agencies is also essential in countering online child sexual exploitation and abuse. This cooperation has involved the “blocking” of registered child sex offenders’ access to platforms frequented and used by children.
    • A case in point is the 2012 Operation Game Over, where Microsoft, Apple, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Disney Interactive Media Group, Warner Brothers and Sony took down more than 3,500 accounts of New York registered sex offenders from online video game platforms.
  • Databases have also been created where child sexual abuse material can be uploaded for investigative purposes, such as INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database, to counter online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • POSCO Act of  India 
    • To effectively address the heinous crimes of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children through less ambiguous and more stringent legal provisions, the Ministry of Women and Child Development championed the introduction of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
    • The Act has been enacted to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography and provide for the establishment of Special Courts for the trial of such offences and related matters and incidents.
  • The Adhoc Committee of the Rajya sabha instituted in 2020  by the Chairman of the  Committee Shri Jai Ram Ramesh has made far-reaching recommendations to prevent sexual abuse of children and to contain access to and transmission of child pornography content on social media.

 Way forward- Suggestions by the Adhoc Committee under Shri Jai Ram Ramesh

  • The Committee has recommended some important amendments to the POCSO Act, 2012 and the IT Act, 2000 with corresponding changes to be carried out in the Indian Penal Code.
    • A new section be included in the IT Act 2000, providing for punitive measures for those providing pornographic access to children and also those who access, produce or transmit Child Sexual Abuse Material(CSAM).
  • National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal shall be designated as the national portal under-reporting requirements in POCSO Act in case of electronic material;
  • The Union Government shall be empowered, through its designated authority, to block and/or prohibit all websites/intermediaries that carry child sexual abuse material; the IT Act shall be amended to hold intermediaries accountable for all measures to proactively identify and remove CSAM, as well as to report it to Indian authorities as well as foreign authorities.
  • Gateway Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must bear a significant amount of responsibility for detecting and blocking CSAM websites. Intermediaries must also report to the designated authority the IP addresses/identities of all those who search/access child porn/CSAM keywords.
  • Law enforcement agencies be permitted to brake end to end encryption to trace distributors of child pornography.
  • Social awareness-Ministries of Women and Child Development and Information and Broadcasting shall launch campaigns for greater awareness among parents to recognize early signs of child abuse, online risks and improving online safety for their child.

Mains model Question

  • Online child sexual exploitation and abuse is  prevalent. What measures should be taken to counter the challenges it throws on us as a society? Comment