Aishwarya Girdhar & Vasudev Devadasan
Today, the Centre for Communication Governance (CCG) is happy to release a working paper titled ‘Tackling the dissemination and redistribution of NCII’ (accessible here). The dissemination and redistribution of non-consensual intimate images (“NCII”) is an issue that has plagued platforms, courts, and lawmakers in recent years. The difficulty of restricting NCII is particularly acute on ‘rogue’ websites that are unresponsive to user complaints. In India, this has prompted victims to petition courts to block webpages hosting their NCII. However, even when courts do block these webpages, the same NCII content may be re-uploaded at different locations.
The goal of our proposed solution is to: (i) reduce the time, cost, and effort associated with victims having to go to court to have their NCII on ‘rogue’ websites blocked; (ii) ensure victims do not have to re-approach courts for the blocking of redistributed NCII; and (iii) provide administrative, legal, and social support to victims.
Our working paper proposes the creation of an independent body (“IB”) to: maintain a hash database of known NCII content; liaise with government departments to ensure the blocking of webpages hosting NCII; potentially crawl targeted areas of the web to detect known NCII content; and work with victims to increase the awareness of NCII related harms and provide administrative and legal support. Under our proposed solution, victims would be able to simply submit URLs hosting their NCII to a centralised portal maintained by the IB. The IB would then vet the victim’s complaint, coordinate with government departments to block the URL, and eventually hash and add the content to a database to combat redistribution.
This will significantly reduce the time, money, and effort exerted by victims to have their NCII blocked, whether at the stage of dissemination or redistribution. The issue of redistribution can also potentially be tackled through a targeted, proactive crawl of websites by the IB for known NCII pursuant to a risk impact assessment. Our solution envisages several safeguards to ensure that the database is only used for NCII, and that lawful content is not added to the database. Chief amongst these is the use of multiple human reviewers to vet the complaints made by victims and a public interest exemption where free speech and privacy interests may need to be balanced.
A full summary of our recommendations are as follows:
- Efforts should be made towards setting up an independently maintained hash database for NCII content.
- The hash database should be maintained by the IB, and it must undertake stringent vetting processes to ensure that only NCII content is added to the database.
- Individuals and vetted technology platforms should be able to submit NCII content for inclusion into the database; NCII content removed pursuant to a court order can also be included in the database.
- The IB may be provided with a mandate to proactively crawl the web in a targeted manner to detect copies of identified NCII content pursuant to a risk impact assessment. This will help shift the burden of identifying copies of known NCII away from victims.
- The IB can supply the DoT with URLs hosting known NCII content, and work with victims to alleviate the burdens of locating and identifying repeat instances of NCII content.
- The IB should be able to work with organisations to provide social, legal, and administrative support to victims of NCII; it would also be able to coordinate with law enforcement and regulatory agencies in facilitating the removal of NCII.
Our working paper draws on recent industry efforts to curb NCII, as well as the current multi-stakeholder approach used to combat child-sex abuse material online. However, our regulatory solution is specifically targeted at restricting the dissemination and redistribution of NCII on ‘rogue’ websites that are unresponsive to user complaints. We welcome inputs from all stakeholders as we work towards finalising our proposed solution. Please send comments and suggestions to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.