Social media platforms bind us all when physical distancing is more in practice due to the pandemic. With that, new challenges have started threatening our lives and safety. Cyber crimes have been rising by leaps and bounds and the demand for child sexual abusive materials (CSAM) has increased drastically particularly in the darknet chat rooms. In the raids conducted all over Kerala earlier this month as part of Operation P-hunt, a total of 268 cases were registered and 41 were arrested including IT professionals for circulating videos and pictures with child porn content through WhatsApp and telegram services.
The arrested were booked under the IT (Information Technology) Act and POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act. The accused were identified and arrested with the help of the Cyberdome of the state police and Interpol.
Online classes, work from home, digital banking, etc. have increased digital use, which has had a significant impact on cybercrime trends, particularly about pornography and child crime. According to Kerala Police CCSE (Countering Child Sexual Exploitation) Team, Use of malware to activate the webcams of the victim and to steal information of children has also been reported in many parts of the country. Many obscene pictures, videos inside household, flats etc have been uploaded and the fact that most of them have been taken from Kerala added to the shock.
The team under the supervision of District Police chiefs could seize 285 devices which include mobile phones, modems, hard disks, memory cards, laptops, computers, etc. with graphic and illegal videos and pictures of children. Many of the videos or pictures appear to be of local children in the age group of 6 to 15 years.
"The arrested persons including IT experts and youths working in good professional jobs were found to be using all kinds of encrypted handles to upload and download such materials. Some are suspected to be involved in the trafficking of children, as many chats to this effect were found on their seized devices", Manoj Abraham, ADGP (Headquarters) and nodal officer of Cyberdome.
Many groups operating on Telegram and WhatsApp operating with more than 400 odd members were also identified by the CCSE cell of Kerala police. According to the official data, Malappuram district tops the list with 47 cases, while Palakkad has recorded the most arrests and raids. The officials have arrested nine people in Palakkad alone.
"The details of the rest of the people involved in circulating these images and videos are being further collected. Strong action will be taken against all the individuals involved in this racket. We will continue our policy of zero tolerance in these matters," said Manoj Abraham.
What Psychologists Say
According to Dr Boban Eranimos, Clinical Psychologist at Active Minds- Mind Clinic, Kottayam, the psychology of perpetrators involved in child abusive offences is that their physical capability to have sex with partners of the same age is very weak. So they use children for fulfilling their sexual desires. Also, they consider children as safer for approaching because they do not raise complaints against them. Not only the ones facing sexual dysfunctions are more into watching or sharing CSAM, but many are doing this for financial gain as well.
"Sexual education and body identification classes must be given to children from an early age. There are chances that the offenders can repeat the crime even after they complete jail terms. So adequate rehabilitation and correction must be ensured for them at the jail" said Dr Boban.