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Cyber Pornography: A Conventional Crime through Computer

Pornography literally means, Writings, pictures or films designed to be sexually exciting. Developing, distributing and propagating the same over the Internet is termed as cyber Pornography. This would include pornographic Web sites, pornographic magazines produced using computers to publish and print the material and the Internet to download and transmit pornographic pictures, photos, writings, etc. In recent times, there have been innumerable instances of promotion of pornography through the use of computers. Information technology has made it much easier to create and distribute pornographic materials through the Internet; such materials can be transmitted all over the world in a matter of seconds. The geographical restrictions, which hitherto prevented, to a certain extent, foreign publications to enter into local territories, have disappeared.

Increase in Cyber Pornography

Two primary reasons why cyber pornography has, in recent years, gathered much attention of both the offender and user, are: (a) Easy accessibility; (b) Anonymity.

Individuals can easily view thousands of pornographic images day and night within the privacy of the four walls of their homes. The Internet has decreased the hurdle of shame that comes with purchasing pornographic materials in a shop or the embarrassment of being caught with physical hard copies of porn materials. The consumer of such publications is more comfortable in opening a website and viewing/watching. With availability of broadband connections and high downloading speeds, the demand, though privately, seems to have risen.

On the other hand, anonymity has encouraged the offender to come out with more explicit and real material with higher degrees of inducement. Anybody can upload information onto a website from anywhere with the entire world as its market/consumer. It is extremely difficult to pinpoint persons responsible for such activities. It is also important to note that in countries where certain degree of pornographic material is permitted to be published and distributed, offenders quite often publish their information online from such countries though knowing well that the online market extends well beyond the geographical boundaries.

Child Pornography

What has, however, been most disturbing is the increase in child pornography. Child pornography is different from other pornography, and consequently receives more stringent legal treatment. It is distinguished as an issue of child abuse — in its production and/or in the way it is used by pedophiles to desensitize their victims. The growth of the Internet has provided child pornographers with a distribution vehicle which is perceived to be relatively anonymous. In February 2006, Mark S. Proctor was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge to a total of 151 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to possession and distribution of child pornography.

Proctor’s arrest was part of Operation Clean-Sweep. an undercover operation initiated by the Miami Electronic Crimes Task Force. A Secret Service agent met Proctor in a ‘Preteen’ Internet Chat room on ‘Yahoo’. Proctor, who believed the undercover agent was the parent of a pre-teen girl, engaged the agent in sexually explicit chats about minors and sent the undercover agent images of child pornography. A search warrant of his residence and seizure of his computers revealed additional images of child pornography. Proctor pled guilty.

Indian Law
The issue of cyber pornography has been dealt with in section 67 of the IT Act where publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form has been made an offence.

Section 67 reads as under:

67. Publishing of information which is obscene in electronic form.
Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.

The section provides that any material which is published, or transmitted or caused to be published in the electronic form shall be an offence in the following situations:

  1. The material so published or transmitted is lascivious;
  2. The material appeals to the prurient interest;
  3. If the effect of the material is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.
In case one is found committing an offence under section 67, he shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees. It is worth noticing that the obscenity test in Section 67 is the same as that in section 292 of the IPC which deals with sale of obscene books, etc.

Other enactments having a bearing on the issue of cyber pornography are Indecent Representation of Women’s Act, 1986 and Young Persons (Harmful Publication) Act, 1950. Persons dealing in cyber pornography that is accessible to persons under the age of twenty years are also liable to be prosecuted under section 293 of the IPC.

Cyber Crime Convention

The Convention on Cyber Crime has, under Article 9, dealt with child pornography and corresponds to an international trend that seeks to ban child pornography.

It defines child pornography as inclusive of such pornographic material that visually depicts:

  1. A minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct;
  2. Person appearing to be a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct;
  3. Realistic images representing a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
The article requires the member countries to adopt laws which establish as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally and without right, the following conduct
  1. Producing child pornography for the purpose of its distribution through a computer system
  2. Offering or making available child pornography through a computer system;
  3. Distributing or transmitting child pornography through a computer system;
  4. Procuring child pornography through a computer system for oneself or for another person;
  5. Possessing child pornography in a computer system or on a computer data storage medium.
  6. It is worth noticing that ‘online pornography’ by itself has not been brought within the four corners
  7. Of the Convention. It is only the child pornography which has been condemned in the Convention.

Treatment for cyber child pornography often faces failure caused by lack of knowledge related to the cause of the crime, the incapability of law enforcement apparatus, inappropriate education system, low participation from the people for law enforcement, and no development of software to prevent on an ongoing basis.

Fighting against cyber child pornography requires a lot of strategy. First, the need to search basic or main reason for emergence of cyber child pornography; second, there should be a complete and clear rule on material and formal substances of cyber child pornography; third, there needs to be improvement on technical ability and tools for law enforcement apparatus; fourth, there needs to be improvement for participation of people; and fifth, there should be development of software continuously and easy access for internet users.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Shereen Samant
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: MA34117712889-22-0521

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