The dark web of child porn

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Last October, Prajwala, a Hyderabad-based NGO that rescued and rehabilitated survivors of the sex trade, came across disturbing images of child pornography on the Internet. When Sunitha Krishnan, co-founder of Prajwala, met a child featured in it, she was expecting an anxious, quiet, suspicious person. Instead, she found a 12-year-old Cherubic girl who burst with enthusiasm. Praniti (name changed) was not a problem child. She attended school, was polite, and never asked for fries or soda. She was talking online with a close friend her parents suspected was from school. Nothing prepared her for the discovery that the person was a stranger and that sexually explicit photos of her daughter were on the Internet. Praniti's response was different. There was only rejection. "She was firmly convinced that this person was her friend, that she hadn't done anything wrong," says Krishnan. The greatest threat to children “cared for” over the Internet is the complete transfer of trust from prey to the predator. It destroys the victim's construct in a child's head. "The child does not know that he is being exploited. Imagine a childhood that deals with the concept of betrayal and abuse," says Krishnan.

Cyber ​​care for very young people like Praniti is the latest threat in a booming online child pornography market that has reached alarming proportions in India (see Perverse Patterns). According to the United States National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), India is currently the world's largest number of images of child sexual abuse online, followed by Thailand. NCMEC estimates that Indian users have uploaded 25,000 images or videos in the past five months. Delhi tops the list of maximum child pornography uploads, followed by Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. "Innovation and the Internet have their own challenges, some of which are alarming like child pornography," says Dr. Gulshan Rai, chief information security officer in the prime minister's office. "The IT law prohibits viewing, creating, and distributing child pornography in the country, but it is still happening. In addition, intermediaries like social networks don't remove content quickly enough. They don't take responsibility for society and instead focus on sales and maximum visibility. "

Indian users have uploaded 25,000 images or videos in the past five months. Delhi is at the top of the list.

Any family member, criminal thug or cyber stranger can create child pornography. You don't have to be a pedophile. "We are seeing an increase in self-created child porn," says Sidd-harth Pillai, co-founder of Aarambh, who runs a hotline for reporting child porn. Government figures also show that the spread of child pornography is increasing. Last year, 377 websites for the publication of child porn content were blocked in India. According to the latest report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 781 cases of child pornography creation or storage were registered in 2018. In 2017 there were 331 cases. Odisha had the maximum number of such cases (333) in 2018, as opposed to just eight in 2017. "Much of the child abuse material is shot in homes of known relatives or family friends. This can be anywhere in the city, in the country , in the poor or in the rich. There would also be an offline machine that could be used to film sex trafficking victims, "said Pillai.

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About 100 people have been reportedly arrested or summoned to view and distribute child pornography across the country since November 2019. In addition, the Gujarat Criminal Police Department received names of 62 pedophiles in the same month. In October 2019, the CBI filed proceedings against seven Indians who were involved in an international child sex club. What is not mentioned is whether the same people are creating content. According to the NCRB, a child is sexually abused every 15 minutes in India. While there is not a single number of how much of this happens in private households, those who work with victims and several independent studies estimate that 70 to 90 percent of all child abuse is committed by people who are known to the child. "Couples or child abusers often film their actions and this content is leaked. There is also great concern that children are cared for through sexual media activities," says Pillai. Child sexual abuse is not only traumatic in a person's founding years, but also leads to a cycle of abuse. According to a 2008 study in the International magazine for youth and youth, & # 39; pathological family atmosphere with early contact with sexual behaviors and sexual acts, traumatic sexual experiences in childhood, sexual interests and explorations, deprivation and failures in romantic relationships and boys who were forced to do homosexual acts are at increased risk exposed to becoming young sex offenders. & # 39;

There are also reports of an offline organized, unorganized child porn industry, possibly a subset of the larger organized porn industry in India. "There is also sexual abuse where human trafficking takes place," says Krishnan. It can be assumed that sexual images of children could begin in areas where human trafficking is based – West Bengal, Rajasthan, with Maharasthra being the top 3, NCRB data shows.

Rajya Sabha chairman and vice president Venkaiah Naidu established a committee under the leadership of Jairam Ramesh of the Congress in December 2019. The 14-member committee met with social media companies and representatives from the areas of women's and children's development, electronics & IT and interior ministries to discuss two key issues: children who have access to pornographic material and the spread of child pornography. Around 40 recommendations were submitted in last month's final report. Currently, child pornography cases are not reported to a governing body or recorded and published by social media companies, a practice that the same companies in the United States follow. There are also cybercrime teams in the United States that use these reports to monitor and track down child porn artists. The Rajya Sabha report recommended that a central office be set up where online platforms can report IP addresses of people looking for child pornography. While the body considered various legislative, technological, and institutional measures for those who view and promote child pornography, it did not include how content creators or those who engage in sexual activity against children on the Internet are tracked. The threat is largely manageable on visible circulation channels. And while digital safety education has been recommended, nothing has been mentioned about sex education to make children more aware of their bodies and rights. The effects of the report on the legislature and the subsequent implementation of the recommendations remain to be seen.

While the Department of Electronics and IT previously recommended that automated tools eradicate terrorism and child pornography, it is likely that the final draft of the IT brokerage guidelines will mandate that only child pornography be monitored and removed. The final call for revised guidelines is expected in the next few weeks.

Amol Deshmukh from the Herd Foundation research company was among those consulted by the committee who also contributed to the final report. "Online child exploitation is a major concern," he says. "We recommended making cyber care, advocacy, or counseling for sexual activities with a person under the age of 18 a crime under the Child Sexual Protection Act (POCSO). We also set up a cybercrime investigative agency in India, mainly to monitor the dark web, where a large proportion of child porn is viewed. "However, monitoring criminal online marketplaces such as the dark internet did not make it to the final Rajya Sabha report.

The dark web

Social media giants are starting to crack down on child pornography in India. In January 2019, WhatsApp blocked 130,000 accounts where pictures of naked children were shared within 10 days. Between July and September 2019, YouTube removed 851,441 videos that raised concerns about child safety. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram also removed millions of such pictures and videos last year. However, this is only the traceable surface fabric. What is available on the dark internet can never be fully documented. Playpen, a dark website that the FBI closed in 2015, had 215,000 users and 23,000 sexually explicit images of children, even toddlers.

India is currently one of the top 10 countries that register on the dark Internet. This emerges from key figures published by the TOR project, an open source software to enable anonymous communication (from January 2020, 50,000 Indians will be registered daily). The numbers can fluctuate depending on how people access the network and how they wipe their tracks. In 2014, there were over 200,000 a day in India. Hyderabad-based ethical hacker Bharat Rao said: "Thanks to online tutorials and virtual private networks, it is now very easy for people to hide their location. This makes it more difficult to track actual user numbers. I don't think the numbers since then more." In 2014, the number of people who only access the dark Internet differently and more covertly decreased. "

Tracking a single user on the dark internet can take 3-4 months. For websites much more.

Unlike the Surface Web, where websites are indexed in search engines, the dark Web helps websites achieve complete anonymity. Software like TOR routes Internet traffic through hundreds of virtual tunnels. These tunnels are created between nodes (or relays). A random route between these nodes is selected each time data is transmitted. TOR goes one step further and uses "onion routing" of data. Imagine driving from Delhi to Jaipur – instead of taking the direct NH-48, you're driving through a number of other cities to reach it. None of the cities will know which other city you have visited, except before and after. And every time you go, take a different path. In this way, a user essentially connects to the deep web. The tortuous, hidden route maintains secrecy.

A user can very easily access the dark web. All you have to do is download a TOR browser (available as an app on smartphones and downloadable on desktops) and connect. There is no Google on the deep web. Instead, you have search engines like The Hidden Wiki, Duck Duck Go, and TOR Links. These do not show you results for child pornography, which is "officially" prohibited, just like on the Internet, and corresponds to the guidelines of the offline world. However, if you log in to specialized encrypted search engines like Onion Land and Onion Dir, you will be entering a different world. On Onion Land alone, a search for "child pornography" leads to over 130 website links and a search for "child pornography India" around 50. There are websites that sell children as slaves, videos of child torture and pictures of children with aggressive animals and children who take nude selfies. A search for & # 39; Nude Child Indian & # 39; Onion Land shows 42 links and a listed picture by caste, state, color, gender and age.

Websites in the dark web are not names, but a random alphanumeric sequence that begins with the domain name & # 39; .onion & # 39; is linked. For example, a link that describes "India Child Stripping to BH" was "jnsbixyz32lsex82nm.onion". Transactions for access to such content are carried out in Bitcoin. At jnsbixyz32lsex82nm.onion, the price for displaying five pictures in Bitcoin was around Rs 6,000. To assess the popularity and economy of these links, you only need to visit the various crowdfunding platforms for child pornography. On a website-uh3xkebozq5n6ygv.onion (listed in a Reddit forum), you can only view pictures and videos after 500 users in Bitcoin have paid around Rs 800.

The center has banned child pornography, but has yet to set up its own agency to investigate cases.

Content is also sold in hundreds of deep web marketplaces. Popular are Empire, Berlusconi, Cave to R, Black Mart, Dream and Elite. Most of the products offered here are drugs or weapons. All marketplaces have the disclaimer that the sale of child pornography is prohibited. And, in fact, it is not a transaction product until you start a chat. Cyber-groomer vehicles sell content in encrypted chats. At Elite, a buyer of static images has given the following prices: "Children's front: Rs 4,000 / children's back: Rs 6,000" (rupee equivalents of Bitcoin). Others can be offered for videos, children with objects, children with other children or children with adults. These chat rooms are closely monitored – even something as inconspicuous as taking a screenshot of a conversation can trigger a warning and block it immediately.

India currently does not have the resources to prevent such operations. "The dark web cannot be regulated, and it will require a full-fledged investigative agency to try at all. We currently don't even have one for the surface web," said Mukesh Choudhary, a cyber crime expert who trained nearby 5,000 civil servants and police officers in India have been investigated for cybercrime investigations. "Finding users over the dark internet is very difficult," he adds. "Websites change links, people hide locations, data transmission paths are hidden and different every time." Rai makes a similar point: "Regulation of the dark grid is extremely time consuming. Sometimes it can be impossible." Tracking a single user on the dark internet can take 3-4 months. track a website even more. The US-South Korea crackdown on a dark child porn website called Welcome to Video took over two years. Transactions in cryptocurrency, onion routing, encrypted chats, and Protonmail (which also cannot be tracked) are the biggest hurdles for dark web investigators.

Along the road

Various interest groups are involved in child protection, each playing a different role. Social media platforms are aware that there is no tolerance for child abuse. Pallavi Walia, head of public order at Twitter India, said: "We have been at the forefront of the challenge of preventing child exploitation on the Internet and will continue to fight child sexual abuse online and in key technologies and tools invest." The company is unwilling to disclose what these tools are.

However, ShareChat is open to disclosure that they use artificial intelligence (AI) to detect child pornography. "AI tools usually detect skin or movement. Some videos only have audio or the bottom half is cut off to outsmart the AI," admits Berges Malu, director of public order at ShareChat. A similar problem with AI was also found on Facebook. Krishnan tried to report a group called Kochu Sundarikal (Little Pretty One), an Anglo-Malayalam community of 3,000 pedophiles who were openly discussing child abuse. The AI ​​could not detect a violation of the community guidelines because it was written in a national language. Similarly, Ankit Mitra (name changed), 31, a cyber hacker from Ahmedabad, said he recently helped destroy a WhatsApp group called Bhabiji ghar pe hai, where 150 pedophiles shared pictures and links to child pornography on the dark internet , Despite consultations with social media companies, the government has ordered no accountability or punitive measures for failing to remove or report content.

The government has banned child pornography, but has yet to set up its own agency to investigate cases of people viewing, distributing, and creating it. There is a general consensus about the ineffectiveness of moral prohibitions. "In general, harm reduction is a successful approach, because even if pornography is banned, people are likely to keep looking (as they have for centuries). Usually, a ban doesn't stop using it, it just moves it in the shadows and stigmatizes it it." Behavior that contradicts the goal of reducing negative health effects, "says Kimberly M. Nelson, a professor at Boston University and co-author of the study," Pornography is not a public health crisis. "Public shame or humiliation is common in China and some American states Often used as a deterrent to crime, psychiatrists, behavioral researchers, and even judges disagree as to whether this is an effective form of discipline, although this is seen as a stronger message than moral policing, but the judicial system must be fast and robust for such punishments to be effective impact.

Experts recommend sex education so that children know their body and their rights.

A blind eye is focused on sex education, although academics argue for their benefits in preventing child abuse. "Children need to be educated about sex. If they know about their bodies, they know about their rights," says S.K. Khandelwal, Head of Psychiatry, AIIMS, Delhi. Chennai sexologist Prakash Kothari, who has been practicing for 48 years, also thinks. "I've seen puberty age accelerate from 14 to 11 years old, mainly because of exposure to sexual content through movies, news, songs, social media, chat rooms, etc. However, the mind matures at age 21 Years It is therefore essential for schools to educate children about their bodies and to help them understand exploitation, "says Kothari.

Arun Kapur, director of the Vasant Valley School in Delhi, says: "Parents have to be parents, not friends. Discipline and awareness of digital security begin at home. There is only so much that schools can do. Most children make phone calls today go to school, "says Kapur. In fact, parents are the first responders here. In the UK, Papaya Parents, a collective of concerned parents who want to fight their children's phone, porn, and internet addiction, advises them to engage with children, have open discussions, and set clear guidelines for use. Many also access their children's social media accounts and will monitor them until they are 18 years old. India has no such support group.

Despite media monitoring and proposals for stricter legal measures, creating and accessing child pornography has never been easier. When Freddy Peats was arrested at his orphanage in Goa in 1991 for child sexual exploitation, the police discovered 2,305 porn photos of underage boys involved in sexual activity with white men and 135 film negatives of child pornography in his possession. What Peats has cost 20 years can now be done in a few weeks. A search on a dark website shows 300,000 images of children forced to behave sexually with other children, children tortured by adults, bitten by animals, and nude selfies of young school girls and boys. This is the Internet threat, where the hunter and the hunted exist on the same platform and are indistinguishable. With almost 66 million children from India browsing the Internet every day (according to a 2019 study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India), everyone is at risk of becoming a silent victim in an advancing pornography market.

Perverted pattern

Child robbers often spend weeks trying to connect with their victims and normalize watching porn before they are manipulated to make such material themselves

Predator cyber care for children – online friendship with children expressly intended for later sexual exploitation – is spreading at an alarming rate in India. And what is often largely undeveloped in India is the evolving modus operandi of such predators.

"The victims are the ones who" fight "in some way," says Shelja Sen, a child psychologist and family therapist. "You could be lonely, fail in academics, deal with parental conflicts, born with a disability, isolated from others your age … these are the children who are picked out and addressed." Through a process of tracking victims on social media and using a compelling narrative as bait, cyber groomers seem to rely heavily on game forums and chat rooms to build emotional connections with their victims. "They don't care whether the child is rich or poor, urban or rural, male or female. They will look for signs [of vulnerability]B. Contributions to loneliness, weight problems or health conditions – everything that indicates that the child is alienated and requires social connection, "explains Sunitha Krishnan, co-founder of Prajwala.

According to one estimate, 70 percent of boys in 9th grade watched an average of 6 porn videos a week.

This was clearly recognizable with the 14-year-old Heena (name changed). Heena, a student from Lucknow, had often told other players on Fortnite (an online video game with a chat window where players could text each other) how miserable she was because her parents divorced. Here she found an online predator – & # 39; Mudita & # 39 ;.

Illustration by Nilanjan Das

Mudita later approached Heena on Facebook and manipulated her over the following weeks to believe that they had a lot in common. Mudita wrote about her own parents' divorce, and after finding out that Heena enjoyed street food, she also began posting photos of Chhole Bhature, Golgappas, and kebabs. She was so successful in deception that it was Heena who spoke to her in comforting words. Later, when Mudita introduced her to pornography, Heena accepted this as normal because "her friend" had shown it to her – a trust that remained unbroken, even when Mudita asked Heena to film herself naked. It was only when Heena's mother came across the messages that the dangerous "friendship" came to light.

It was Mudita's Facebook account that gave Manoj Sharma, psychiatrist and founder of the NIMHANS Center for Social Media Addiction Control in Bengaluru, a look at how much thought predators put into their efforts. "Of the 8 to 10 kids we see each week, several were made to watch porn online, without exception," says Sharma. "Usually they're conditioned for porn at a young age – nudity isn't a big deal for them, so it doesn't feel exploitative to them [if they were to be] filmed the same way, "says Sharma." Everything is available online and can also be easily hidden. This is a great advantage for predators: they hide behind the coat of their own profile and behind what children do not share with their parents. "