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Cyber Crime Volunteers

  • 04 Mar 2021
  • 6 min read

Why in News

The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), a digital liberties organisation, has written to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that the cyber crime volunteers concept will lead to a “culture of surveillance and constant suspicion in society creating potential social distrust”.

Key Points

  • About the Cyber Crime Volunteers Concept:
    • Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) has envisaged the Cyber Crime Volunteers Program to bring together citizens with passion to serve the nation on a single platform and contribute in the fight against cybercrime in the country.
      • The programme targets to rope in around 500 persons to flag unlawful content on the Internet.
    • Good Samaritans are welcomed to register as Cyber Crime Volunteers in the role of unlawful content flaggers for facilitating law enforcement agencies in identifying, reporting and removal of illegal/unlawful online content.
    • Volunteers have been advised to study Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which deals with freedom of expression.
    • Further, the volunteer shall “maintain strict confidentiality of tasks assigned/carried out by him/her”. The State Nodal Officer of States/UTs also reserves the right to take legal action against the Volunteer, in case of violation of terms and conditions of the Program.
  • Unlawful Content: In general, content that violates any law in force in India. Such content may fall under following broad categories:
    • Against sovereignty and integrity of India.
    • Against defence of India.
    • Against Security of the State.
    • Against friendly relations with foreign States.
    • Content aimed at disturbing Public Order.
    • Disturbing communal harmony.
    • Child Sex Abuse material.
  • Concerns Raised:
    • Chances of Misuse: There is no information available on how the Ministry will ensure that the program is not misused by certain elements to extract misguided personal or political vendettas.
      • There is no process in place for withdrawal of complaints once submitted.
    • Cyber-Vigilantism: The programme will essentially result in a similar situation to the one which East Germany was in the 1950s.
      • The state asking citizens to report their fellow citizens would lead to cyber-vigilantism, and would lead to peers turning against their peers to snitch on them.
    • No Clear Definition: The Ministry has failed to clearly define unlawful content and content which would relate to “anti-national” activities.
      • This could allow the volunteers to exercise far more discretion than is necessary and report on citizens who are well within their rights to post content which is critical of the State.
      • Such a program seems to be in direct violation of the decision of the Supreme Court in Shreya Singhal v Union of India (2013) which highlights the need to ensure that overbroad restrictions on online speech are not used as a tool by the State to criminalise free speech on the internet.

Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre

  • It has been established under the Ministry of Home affairs (MHA) to act as a nodal point at National level in the fight against cybercrime.
    • The scheme to set up I4C was approved in October 2018, to deal with all types of cybercrimes in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.
    • This state-of-the-art Centre is located in New Delhi.
    • Various States and Union Territories have given their consent to set up Regional Cyber Crime Coordination Centres.
  • Seven Components of the Scheme:
    • National Cyber Crime Threat Analytics Unit,
    • National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal,
    • National Cyber Crime Training Centre,
    • Cyber Crime Ecosystem Management Unit,
    • National Cyber Crime Research and Innovation Centre,
    • National Cyber Crime Forensic Laboratory Ecosystem and
    • Platform for Joint Cyber Crime Investigation Team.
  • Objectives:
    • To provide a platform to deal with cybercrimes in a coordinated and comprehensive manner.
      • To coordinate all activities related to implementation of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLAT) with other countries related to cybercrimes in consultation with the concerned nodal authority in MHA.
    • To create an ecosystem that brings together academia, industry, public and government in prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of cybercrimes.
      • To identify the research problems and take up R&D activities in developing new technologies and forensic tools in collaboration with academia/research institutes within India and abroad.
    • To prevent misuse of cyberspace for furthering the cause of extremist and terrorist groups.
    • Suggest amendments, if required, in cyber laws to keep pace with fast changing technologies and International cooperation.

Source: TH

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