SAFEGUARDING MINORS AGAINST THE DANGERS OF THE DARK WEB

SAFEGUARDING MINORS AGAINST THE DANGERS OF THE DARK WEB

Author- Abhishek Sriram
3 rd Year BBA LLB (Hons.)
School of Law, CHRIST (Deemed to be University)

Abstract
Children are the pillars of an evolving nation. Nurtured properly, children grow up to be the stepping stones upon which modern society is established. During the early years of development, extra care and support is given in order to ensure proper growth of mental, physical and psychological faculties. A parent does everything in their power to ensure that their children grow up in the most nurturing environment. However sometimes this is not enough. With the expansion of information and technology in the 21st Century, it is proving to be harder to protect children from the horrors of reality. A child’s trust and vulnerability are making them easy prey to those who seek to exploit them. In their early years they are exposed to sexual violence, pornography, slavery and many more horrors. These abominations stem from the same place, the dark web. The dark web is the World Wide Web content that exists on overlay networks that use the Internet but require specific software, configurations, or authorization to access. The dark web forms a small part of the deep web, the part of the Web not indexed by web search engines. The dark web exists in every country and every part of the globe that has access to the internet. This paper seeks to establish the need for specific legislation to be adopted in the state of India. How are child rights currently protected in India? To what extent does the dark web affect the youth of the country? It addresses the question of how far child rights with regard to the dark web have been abused. The abuse a child suffers during childhood will cast a shadow on how that child develops in the future. The character of a society can be judged by how it protects the children. A child should be playing out in the sun not suffering in the darkness of abuse. Has India done enough? 
Key Words:
Abuse, Anonymity, Caretaker, Child, Dark, Legislation, Pornography, Web

      1.     INTRODUCTION TO CHILD RIGHTS
As we know, the children are the future of our country. They are also the most vulnerable section of our society. They possess the right to lead a decent life with dignity. It is important that, we, as a society do not fail the future of our country and ensure that our children are given the necessary rights and that these rights are not being violated. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children (UNCRC), Child Rights are minimum entitlements and freedoms that should be afforded to all persons below the age of 18 regardless of race, colour, gender, language, religion, opinions, origins, wealth, birth status or ability and therefore apply to all people everywhere. As per the UNCRC, the fundamental rights of a child are the Right to Survival, Right to Development, Right to Protection and Right to Participation. A child’s right to survival begins before a child is born.[1]According to Government of India, a child life begins after twenty weeks of conception. Thus, the right to survival is inclusive of the child rights to be born, right to minimum standards of food, shelter and clothing, and the right to live with dignity. A child has the right to be protected from neglect, exploitation and abuse at home, and elsewhere. A child has a right to participate in any decision making that involves him/her directly or indirectly. There are varying degrees of participation as per the age and maturity of the child. Children have the right to all forms of development, that is, emotional, mental and physical. Emotional development is fulfilled by proper care and love of a support system, mental development through education and learning and physical development through recreation, play and nutrition. [2]

This was ratified by the Government of India in the year, 1992. These rights are provided to every child as and when they are born and the duty bearers of these rights have to ensure that these rights are provided to the right holders, the children. There are numerous articles in the Constitution of India and the Directive Principles of State Policy that uphold the rights provided to the children. Thus, brings in the applicability of the Caretaker Theory, where the caretakers of the children are their parents, legal guardians, teachers, foster parents or anyone else have to ensure that the rights of the child are not being violated as they are not in a position to understand that their rights are being violated and the caretaker has to ensure that they enforce these rights against those violating the right of the child.
 
      2.     CHILD RIGHTS LEGISLATION IN INDIA
It is important for the country to ensure that each and every child to be ensured of their minimum requirements and they are not deprived of anything that would be exponentially consequential to the child if they were deprived of them due to the oppressions committed against them. India has done their part by drafting numerous legislations to protect children and ensure that they live a dignified life and that they are nurtured to a bright path for thei
r and our country’s future. But the problem arises in its implementation when the government doesn’t do their part by proving a reasonable amount of their budget towards the empowerment of the children of this country. There has been a sharp decline in child welfare budget from 4.52% in 2014-15 to 3.26% in 2015-16 Union budget.[3] The depleting allocation of the Union Budget for child welfare is worrisome and should be investigated. Reducing the budget allocation towards the welfare of our children just showcases a step being taken in the wrong direction. The programmes or schemes that have been set up have taken a hit due to the budget allocation which would hinder them from functioning effectively and efficiently. This would in turn affect those children and their caretakers that benefit from these programmes or schemes set up. Which would then make the conditions of the children in our country inevitably deplorable.  
      3.     WHAT IS DARK WEB?
The term dark net is very loosely defined, but refers to an area of the Internet that is only accessible by using an encryption tool which is called The Onion Router (Tor), known by that name because of the layers of encryption that surround and obscure the data being passed back and forth when it’s used.[4]Tor is a tool aimed at those desiring privacy online, although it frequently attracts those with criminal intentions. An innovative feature of Tor is the ability to host websites anonymously and with a degree of impunity — designed to be used by those in repressive regimes who wish to host whistle-blowing or political content.[5] Dark Web is the part of the internet that cannot be accessible by regular search engines such as Google. It consists of small peer to peer networks as well as large networks like Tor or I2P which are operated by public organizations. The key to these activities is the relative anonymity that users have when accessing the darknet using via browsers such as Tor.[6]The genesis of Tor was in the research of three US Naval Research Laboratory scientists. As late as 2011, the US Government supplied 60% of its funding, and Google supports the non-profit organisation that administers it.[7] TOR encrypts the users’ identities and IP addresses which makes them untraceable. Anything present on the dark web cannot be found through regular searches on the internet through search engines like Google, which thus provides a high grade of anonymity. Many dark web websites use the anonymity software, TOR or I2P. A website that runs TOR, can only be accessible by those users who use TOR as well.  These soft wares allow a high grade of anonymity which does not allow any third party from hacking any information regarding the user while using the software. These softwares encrypts web traffic and bounces them off of innumerable randomly chosen volunteered computers around the world and removes one layer of encryption before finally hopping onto the network. Which in turn, prevents any one from tracing it back into the user and one would not be able to track the original user, not even the host of the encryption chain can track the user. On the other hand, the World Wide Web, or simply the Web, is a way of accessing information over the medium of the Internet. It is an information-sharing model that is built on top of the Internet. The Web uses the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, only one of the languages spoken over the Internet, to transmit data. The Internet, not the Web, is also used for email, which relies on Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, Usenet news groups, instant messaging and File Transfer Protocol. The Web, therefore, is just a portion of the Internet, albeit a large one. Finally, the deep Web is, put simply, the part of the Web that is hidden from view. It is World Wide Web content that is not part of the surface Web. It cannot be accessed by normal search engines. This massive subsection of the Internet is more than 500 times bigger than the visible Web.[8]Tor accesses information on the Web in much the same way, but it breaks up the direct connection. After a fashion, the Tor browser is a bit like an anonymous version of the children’s game of telephone. You send your request for a particular video or bit of information to a computer somewhere in the Tor network. This computer then relays that information on to another computer somewhere else in the network. Once again, this computer simply relays your request onward to yet another machine. This third machine in the game of telephone then requests the information you want to view and sends it back to you along a similar, disjointed path.[9]
      4.     DARK WEB LEGISLATION- NEED FOR IMPROVED LEGISLATION
India has a legislation that has a limited ambit that covers internet but not the dark web. They do have an adequate internet security, India ranks 23rd out of 165 nations in the UN Global Cybersecurity Index.[10]The problem arises due to the dark web’s anonymity and that the users of the dark web cannot be tracked down due its complex encryption.

Any commission of such offences mentioned in the Act would attract fines and a term of imprisonment. The problem with this is that due to the high grade of anonymity with respect to the dark web, one cannot ascertain a duty bearer and a right holder in the situation as the IP address is near impossible to track and hold any one person responsible for his actions committed on the dark web.  This would work fairly when it comes to the surface web, where the users can be easily tracked down through their IP address and would be a much simpler task to impose punishments on the crimes committed in the case that they do violate the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000. But in the case of dark web, due to its high level of encryption that provides the users with a high grade of anonymity, it would not be a simple task to hold one specific person or party responsible for their actions as they would be untraceable.

Although there may be a lot of illegal activities conducted in the dark web, it does not make the dark web illegal. It is merely a platform that provides anonymity. There are multiple websites on the dark web used for legal purposes as well such as those who want a higher level of privacy, the dark web would provide privacy for the whistle blowers, and many journalists use the dark web as a platform to gain information from those sources who may require a plenitude of privacy. But because it is being used for illegal purposes, it need not be made illegal. For example, if a person commits a crime in a state, it would be blown out of proportion to make the state illegal.    

In 2011, Europol, coordinating with 13 national governments, launched Operation Rescue. The concerted law enforcement action uncovered 670 suspects and led to 184 arrests on child abuse imagery-related charges (Europol 2011). In July 2014, the UK’s National Crime Agency arrested some 650 people on various child abuse charges, ranging from the possession of images to the actual abuse of minors (BBC 2014a). In 2015, another 50 suspects were identified in Northern Ireland and 37 charges were laid (BBC 2015). These are just a few examples of the successful instances of law enforcement uncovering pedophilia rings in the recesses of the dark Web. Unfortunately, as Gareth Owen and Nick Savage (2015) point out in their study for the Global Commission on Internet Governance, the problem of child abuse images on the dark Web is probably even more widespread than the record of arrests would lead us to believe. 

Child abuse sites are also routinely infiltrated by law enforcement. Police from the United Kingdom and Australia, for example, infiltrated one online child abuse ring of up to 70,000 members “to identify the members who posed the greatest danger to children. Police also sometimes posed as children online as part of the investigation”[11]

The Dark Web is most commonly associated with the sale of drugs, weapons, counterfeit documents and child pornography.[12] Child pornography sites are the most visited sites on the dark web.[13] Child Pornography or pedophilia is extremely accessible. Pornography is accepted on the surface Web with some regulation. The dark Web offers various types of sites and forums for those wishing to engage in pedophilia.[14]A lot of the children who are being exploited in such places are not aware that they are being exploited in such a manner. These children are also trafficked by those users for their own personal gain. In 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted an undercover operation on a child pornography website called Playpen and successfully took it down by seizing and transferring it to a government server in Virginia, which they used as a launching pad for the largest known law enforcement computer hacking campaign in their history, but to do so, the FBI themselves became the highest distributor of child pornography to ensure that this mission which they termed as the Operation Pacifier[15]was successful, though their methods used were very controversial. Similarly, there have been missions in India, although not with respect to child pornography, it was regarding the purchasing of drugs, in this case, five students from Mumbai purchased 1,400 dots of LSD worth Rs. 70 lakhs.[16] It was later found that child pornography was circulated through What’s App as well in a group reportedly consisting 217 members, out of which 7 were not from India. Out of which 5 members of the group that circulated child pornography which originally originated from the content posted on the dark web were arrested and were reportedly between the age group of 18 years to 25 years. These videos brought to light the atrocities committed against children in our very own neighbourhood. [17]
      5.
    
CONCLUSION
According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child, a child is a person below the age of 18, unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. This would thus allow individual countries to determine as per their own discretion the age of a child. According to the Census of India, a child is any person under the age of 14 India has 1.21 billion people in the country, out of which 39% consists of children.[18]This section of our society is the most vulnerable and they must be protected against the dangers of the ill minded. They may exploit children and they must be protected against them by their care takers. Our children are the future of the country, they must safeguard the future of our country and ensure that our children live a dignified life and provide them with all their necessities. Our children are being exploited on platforms like the internet. The internet is a vast platform and what we access in our daily lives is just 4% of the entire web.[19]The dark web is another platform that provides a very high grade of anonymity through which many ill minded people exploit the anonymity that the dark web is known for.

The dark web is a platform that provides a great amount of anonymity, this should not be exploited for committing atrocities against children or committing any other crimes on this platform. It should be used in a well-regulated manner that ensures that no one’s rights are being violated and they are not being exploited. The only way that these users are able to skirt the law is due to the flaky legislations of other countries. The laws regarding the dark web may be stringent in one country but may not be that way in another. The IP addresses of the users jump from one country to another, exploiting each countries’ legal framework. The dark web can be accessed through networks such as TOR or I2P which encrypts the users’ IP addresses. The only way to curb this is by improving the legislations of these countries which would make it difficult for the users of dark web to exploit these countries’ legal framework.  
India, although is taking action with respect to the dark web on the purchase of drugs, are yet to improve their measures taken to curb the dark net related crimes, if not eradicating them. The Union Head Minister of the Women and Child Development ministry, Menaka Gandhi proposed a global alliance to tackle the problems caused by the dark web tasked with identifying and eliminating the atrocities committed against women and children due to the high traffic on the child pornography sites. The countries can set up networks as well to be able to identify where the sexually abusive content originates from and that can help take control of the distribution of this content. To ensure this, we need a global corporation for the curbing of the distribution of the sexually abusive content. But we, as a society have to educate our children of the dangers of the internet. They must be aware and the dangers that may befall them. Their caretakers must protect them of these dangers. We as a country, as a society, as a community have to protect the future of our country, we have to impose stricter regulations on the wide horizons of the internet. We must collectively come together to form a global alliance and fight the demons of the dark web.

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[1] United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, available at: http://childlineindia.org.in/United-Nations-Convention-on-the-Rights-of-the-Child.htm (last visited on March 5, 2020)


[2] Ibid.

[3] Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, A Reference Annual (2014)

[4] Calum Jeffray, Tobias Feakin, “Underground Web: The Cybercrime Challenge”, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (2015)

[5] Gareth Owen, Nick Savage, “The Tor Dark Net”

[6] Supra note 4

[7] Lev Grossman, Jay Newton-Small, “The Secret Web: Where Drugs, Porn and Murder Live Online”, Time, 11 November 2013

[8] Michael Chertoff, Tobby Simon, “The Impact Of The Dark Web On Internet Governance and Cyber Security”

[9] Global Commission On Internet Governance, “Cyber Security in a Volatile World Report”

[10] International Telecommunications Union, available at: https://www.itu.int (last visited on March 5, 2020)

[11]Eric Jardine, “The Dark Web Dilemma: Tor, Anonymity and Online Policing”

[12]Hacker Lexicon, available at: https://www.wired.com/2014/11/hacker-lexicon-whats-dark-web/ (last visited on March 5, 2020)

[13] Ward Mark, “Tor’s most visited hidden sites host child abuse images” (2014)

[14]Michael Chertoff, Tobby Simon, “The Impact Of The Dark Web On Internet Governance and Cyber Security”

[15]Inside ‘Operation Pacifier’ and the FBI’s Global Computer Hacking, available at: https://www.nacdl.org/Champion.aspx?id=49907 (last visited on March 5, 2020)

[16]The Dark Web and How Police Deal With It?, available at: https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/the-dark-web-and-how-police-deal-with-it-5359482/ (last visited on March 5, 2020)

[17]Maneka Gandhi Proposes International Alliance for Eliminating Child Abuse from Dark Web, available at: https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/maneka-proposes-int-alliance-for-eliminating-child-abuse-material-from-dark-web/314722 (last visited on March 5, 2020)

[18]Childline India, available at: http://www.childlineindia.org.in/child-in-india.htm (last visited on March 5, 2020)

[19]What is Surface Web, Deep Web and Dark Web?, available at: https://medium.com/@hackersleague/what-is-surface-web-deep-web-and-dark-web-cdbaf71b30d5 (last visited on March 5, 2020)

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