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Operation Blackface : Maharashtra Police

  Dec 19, 2020

Operation Blackface : Maharashtra Police to fight child pornography

Q. Why is this in news? 

  • The cyber wing of the Maharashtra Police recently acquired a software from Interpol that would help them track down child pornography uploaded online. 
  • The software also has in-built algorithms to look for keywords around child pornography that would for example help law enforcement agencies track forums that indulge in these crimes.

Q. What is the new software that is used by Interpol to act against child pornography online?

  • The Interpol has a software that uses various mechanisms like detecting nudity in images, recognising age of the person through facial structures, among other filters. It also has in-built algorithms to look for keywords around child pornography that would for example help law enforcement agencies track forums that indulge in these crimes. Based on these filters, the software ‘crawler’ scans the net looking for such images, videos and text. If they find any such media, it is added to the database after which officers identify cases that could fall under child pornography.

Q. Which states are being provided this software in India?

  • While initially the database was with Interpol, they have now also provided the software to Maharashtra. Earlier this year, 12 officers of Maharashtra cyber were trained by the Interpol officers in the use of this software after which they were provided access to it. Kerala too was to undergo training by Interpol last year after several such media was found to be uploaded from there.

Q. What is the TRACE team set up by Maharashtra Cyber to counter child pornography?

  • The 12 officers who went for training to the South Asian wing of Interpol form the core of Tactical Response Against Cyber Child Exploitation (TRACE) Unit. Those 12 officers last week trained a batch of 270 policemen across the state in the use of the software to track cases of child pornography. The TRACE unit was primarily set up to act against child pornography in Maharashtra that is part of a larger campaign against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) across the country since 2019.

Q. Why has there been a boost in action against CSAM in India since 2019?

  • India’s fight against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) received a boost in 2019 when National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a US-based non-profit that works to prevent child exploitation, started sharing tip-offs about child pornography in India with Indian agencies. These tip offs were received by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which then passed it on to the states where the child pornography related incident had taken place. A total of 25,000 cases of child pornography being uploaded were reported in the five months between September 2019 and January 2020 across the country. While Delhi topped the list when it comes to people suspected to be involved in uploading child-porn, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are the other top states as per the data.

Q. What is ‘Operation Blackface’ carried out in Maharashtra?

  • ‘Operation Blackface’ is part of the larger action taken against CSAM across the country. Acting on the tip off provided by NCRB, Maharashtra Cyber cops started forwarding complaints to the districts where FIR’s were registered against accused persons. In the current year alone, there have been above 100 FIR’s registered in cases linked to CSAM and nearly 50 persons placed under arrest. The officer said that with their team being trained by Interpol it better equips them to deal with CSAM instances and should overall bring down the number of such occurrences that has Maharashtra as its source.