May 27th, 2008 | Published in Google Public Policy
As we have highlighted here, online child safety is a big priority for Google. This is especially true in India, an extraordinarily young nation where, as a visit to any local cybercafe will make obvious, young people are leading the charge onto the Internet (in 2001, over 35 percent of India's population was under the age of 15).
This is a crucial time for online child safety in India as Parliament is set to amend the nation's Information Technology laws in its current session. While Members consider many provisions, we hope that the final law retains Section 67 (2) of the Ministry of Information Technology's proposed amendments. This section, which both adds child pornography to the list of offences under the Act and strengthens the punishment for the offence itself, is critical to drawing attention to the issue and to furthering the safety of India's youth online. While adding this provision to law would represent a step forward, we hope the government will continue to focus on child safety issues, especially as they pertain to the Internet. There are many global examples of innovations in this area, including the presence of organizations that enable the reporting of child pornography in the U.S. and U.K.; the Indian government should consider these and other options.
Of course, I've blogged about India's IT Act before (and especially its handling of the issue of intermediary liability). While policy reforms on both intermediary liability and child safety are needed to help position the Internet for growth in India, the issue of child safety presents a unique opportunity to couple advocacy with ground-level programs aimed at making a direct difference in the lives of children.
With this in mind, Google India recently launched "Be NetSmart", a nationwide Internet safety campaign that -- in cooperation with local law enforcement -- aims to educate students, teachers, and parents about the positive and valuable role the Internet can play in modern life, while at the same time conveying important messages about how to be safe, cautious, and smart online.
Mumbai was the site of the first phase of the campaign, and over the course of six weeks, Google employee volunteers and Mumbai Police officials shared the Be NetSmart message with more than 25,000 students and 1,200 school officials across more than 50 schools in India's largest city.
The response in India has been enthusiastic - and has even spurred the creation of several similar programs, including the recent "Get NetSecure Information Security Week" sponsored by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. We welcome all programs that focus on the safety of children online; India's a large country - the more programs, the better.