In 2015, an NGO named Prajwala wrote a letter to the Supreme Court raising concerns about videos depicting sexual violence being distributed on the internet. The letter sought to bring the Court’s attention to the existence of such videos, and their rampant circulation on online platforms.
Based on the contents of the letter, a suo moto petition was registered, with Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Yahoo and Microsoft impleaded as parties. The Court directed that a committee be constituted to advise the Court “on the feasibility of ensuring that videos depicting rape, gang rape and child pornography are not available for circulation.” One of the stated objectives of the committee was to examine technological solutions to the problem – for instance, auto-blocking with the use of keywords and hashes.
The orders of the Court suggest that there was consensus within the committee that websites that do not proactively censor content that depicts sexual violence could be blocked by law enforcement agencies. The committee further advised the creation of a government controlled hash bank of such content. Although the case is still pending before the Supreme Court, it appears that the outcome could be an opaque blocking content mechanism, with insufficient safeguards to prevent misuse.