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Kerala Police Say Rise in Numbers of Those Viewing Child Porn amid Lockdown, 300 People Identified

An illustration shows a teenager looking over her Facebook page. The internet facilitates sexual exploitation, a category of child abuse. (Reuters)

An illustration shows a teenager looking over her Facebook page. The internet facilitates sexual exploitation, a category of child abuse. (Reuters)

Several groups have been formed across various social media platforms, including Telegram and WhatsApp, which share Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM).

Thiruvananthapuram: With the COVID-19 lockdown in place, the Kerala Police have observed a drastic increase in the number of those viewing child pornography in the state. The Countering Child Sexual Exploitation (CCSE) team of the Kerala Police on Saturday identified 300 such people.

Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Manoj Abraham, in charge of the CCSE team, said the team has identified 300 people who have uploaded and downloaded child pornographic content using the internet.

Several groups have been formed across various social media platforms, including Telegram and WhatsApp, that share Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). The police have shut down eight such groups on Telegram that share child abuse content. "We are trying to identify the administrators of these groups so action can be taken against them," said Abraham.

But with the lockdown and social distancing norms in place, their arrest is still in the pipeline and all the accused are currently at home, he added.

Abraham said children spending more time on the internet have created a "perfect opportunity" for predators to take advantage of the pandemic situation.

"Pedophiles find it easy to target children who are spending more time online and are increasingly lonely or anxious because of the lockdown. In several online chat rooms, the demand for such content has increased drastically," he said. "Many children use gaming sites and social media to keep themselves entertained at home. However, these platforms are being exploited by criminal elements to get access to children."

In several states, sexual predators use malware to activate webcams of the victim and steal their information.

A special cell has been created on Cyberdome to nab child abusers who use encrypted apps such as Telegram and WhatsApp to deal in CSAM. Stringent action under The Information Technology Act, involving imprisonment for a period of 10 years, is in the offing for any such perpetrator.

Abraham said parents should monitor their children's online activities in order to prevent them from falling prey to such crimes.

The CCSE team has written to major social media providers to activate the use of artificial intelligence in order to moderate content during the coronavirus crisis.