In a new programme started by the Ministry of Home Affairs, citizens can participate as volunteers to identify, flag and report illegal and unlawful content to the Government, with the volunteers required to register their personal details on the portal, reports Rhea Binoy.
A new programme has been started by the Cyber Crime Cell of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) under which the citizens can participate as volunteers to identify, flag and report to the government illegal and unlawful content, including child pornography, rape, terrorism, radicalisation and anti-national activities.
Under the programme, the MHA’s Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre will act as an apex, while volunteers can register themselves with their states or union territories to work as cyber volunteers.
The volunteers will be asked to reveal personal details, including name, father’s name, mobile numbers and email address. According to the document for the registration for volunteers, the details of the volunteer will not be verified separately.
The MHA portal where one can register as a cybercrime volunteer specifies that those who register cannot use this programme for any commercial gains or issue any public statement about their association as a cyber volunteer. The volunteers are “prohibited from using the name or claiming association” with MHA on any public platform.
A senior advocate dealing in cybercrime cases, told The Indian Express, “There are multiple aspects to this notification. Firstly, there is no legal definition of anti-national content or activity, either by the government or the judiciary. That is one big grey area. Secondly, giving people the option to report fellow citizens gives too much power without adequate checks and balances. What if I report you and get it reported by multiple people to settle my differences with you?”
The MHA directive on the portal also says that the volunteer shall “not be entitled to any monetary benefits or Identity cards/Designation etc., at present or future” and shall “maintain strict confidentiality of task assigned/carried out by him/her”. The directives also mention that “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 Cyber Volunteer Program”.
People can also register as cyber awareness promoters, to spread awareness about cybercrime in the groups such as women, the elderly, and children residing in rural areas. The division is seeking applications as volunteers from the cyber experts, who can help the government with malware, cryptography and memory analysis.
However, as per the notification, the volunteers seeking to register themselves as a promoter or expert will be verified by their respective states or union territories, and are subject to the same legal provisions as the cybercrime volunteers.
The government does not have any clear legal framework on what accounts as anti-national content or activity and often uses provisions under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) to detain or jail citizens accused of “anti-national” activities.
Yesterday PM Narendra Modi, in his response to the Motion of Thanks of President Ram Nath Kovind’s address, in Rajya Sabha said, “In the last few years, a new community has emerged: ‘Andolan Jeevi’. They are seen in every agitation. We need to identify these people and protect the country from such people, who are actually ‘parjeevi’(parasite).”
(Rhea Binoy is a journalism student at the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune, and is an intern with The Leaflet.)