Initially, the pilot programme will be kicked off in Jammu, Kashmir, and Tripura. Based on the results from these states, it will be implemented in other parts of the country.
According to reports, the cybercrime cell of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced a new programme in which citizens can volunteer to identify, flag, and report illegal content online to the government. Child sexual abuse material, rape, terrorism, radicalisation and other ‘anti-national’ activities will be considered ‘illegal content’. Initially, the pilot programme will be kicked off in Jammu, Kashmir, and Tripura. Based on the results from these states, it will be implemented in other parts of the country.
Interested volunteers, according to reports, will be able to register themselves with their respective states and union territories while the MHA’s Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (14C) will act as the nodal point. Personal details such as their name, father’s name, address, and mobile number will have to be provided by interested volunteers, however, their information will not be verified separately.
While working for the programme, there are several rules that the volunteers would need to abide by. The rules are mentioned on the MHA website. As per the rules, the volunteers are not supposed to claim any association with the MHA or use its name on any social media and they are not allowed to create social media accounts in the name of the programme. The volunteers must not use this programme to gain monetary benefits and must maintain confidentiality while carrying out their tasks, states another rule.
The MHA, apart from policing ‘unlawful’ content, offers another volunteer-based programme—‘cyber awareness promoters’. In this programme, volunteers can spread awareness and information on cybercrime among ‘vulnerable’ groups like women, children, the elderly and residents of rural areas. To help the government with malware and memory analysis and cryptography, cyber experts can also apply for a volunteer position. However, unlike the citizen volunteering programme, those who apply for promoter and expert programmes will have their personal information verified by their respective states or union territories.
Though the MHA website does not clearly mention that what constitutes ‘anti-national’ activities, the volunteers are “advised” to study Article 19 of the Indian Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and other basic freedoms to the citizens of the country.