Locanto’s prostitution lists pose a legal dilemma for the central government as their violations of Indian law occur at the state level.

The Department of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) was interviewed about prostitution listings on the Locanto classifieds site, a Craigslist-style classifieds site. The parliamentary question was made by DMK Lok Sabha, MP for the AKP Chinraj. The case is interesting because Locanto’s parent company, Yalwa GmbH, is based in Germany but also offers services in India. Prostitution listings appear on the site with a simple Google search and Indian law enforcement is struggling to keep up with the flood of prostitution listings on the site. For example, here are the arrests that have been made in a single city in the past few months:

  • May 21: An anti-trafficking police unit in Telangana arrested five Ugandan nationals in Dilsukhnagar for running an organized prostitution ring listed on Locanto, Telangana Today reported.
  • May 19th: A production manager in Hyderabad was arrested for involvement in a prostitution ring. He was also caught by ads found on Locanto, the New Indian Express reported.
  • April 29th: Police arrest a man for posting prostitution listings on Locanto, Telangana Today reported.

Why is it important? What happens if an intermediary based abroad is used to commit crimes that are not located at the central level? What if these intermediaries are not present in India? The law does not offer any remedies such as blocking, as this is only possible under the IT law. As more Indians go online, the legal and technological challenges surrounding this topic will only increase.

Center cannot take any action

“According to the Information Technology Act of 2000, the publication or transmission of obscene and pornographic material in electronic form is a cyber crime,” said Minister of State for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar in his response. “In addition, the Information Technology Rules (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Code of Ethics) 2021, notified under the Act on February 25, 2021, provide for the blocking / removal of illegal content by intermediaries upon receipt of a court order or upon notification by the relevant government or your agency. ”As far as we can see, Locanto has not provided any information on a complainant for India as the rules require. MediaNama has contacted Locanto for comments and will update this report if they respond.

However, it is not possible to ban such websites, added Chandrasekhar, because “the police and public order are subjects of the state”. Therefore, the central government that regulates the Internet under the Department of Telecommunications cannot ban these websites as they violate Indian state law. “Complainants must submit complaints to Internet crime portal and with law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement agencies will take action in accordance with the provisions of the IT law, ”added Chandrasekhar.

Center also cannot respond to real money games: If this sounds familiar, it’s because the government’s hands were tied before. A few weeks ago we discussed in a report how it was largely illegal for foreign betting and gambling websites to offer their services in India; Even so, the government is helpless to stop these services as gambling is a subject of the state.

Full question and answer

Can the Minister for Electronics and Information Technology say:

(a) whether the government has received a complaint regarding online prostitution carried out on a website called “Locanto”, and if so, the details of it and the actions taken by the government in relation to it; and

(b) whether the government is proposing to ban websites that facilitate illegal and immoral online activity, and if so, details of them, and if not, why?

REPLY

STATE MINISTER FOR ELECTRONICS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

(SHRI RAJEEV CHANDRASEKHAR)

(a): The Locanto website is an Internet platform on which users can post and respond to classified ads. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has received several complaints about the misuse of such websites for online prostitution. The government has taken steps to curb such online activity. According to the Information Technology Act of 2000, the publication or transmission of obscene and pornographic material in electronic form is a cybercrime. In addition, the Information Technology Rules (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Code of Ethics) 2021, notified on February 25, 2021 under the Act, provide for the intermediary to block / remove illegal content upon receipt of a court order or upon notification. before the competent government or its authority. In addition, rule 3 (2) of these rules provides that, in the event of a complaint by a person, the mediator must remove within 24 hours all content that prima facie reveals the private area of ​​this person, shows or shows this person in full or partial nudity or a represents such a person engaged in a sexual act or behavior or is in electronic form as an impersonation, including artificially altered images of that person.

(b): “Police” and “Public Order” are subjects of the state. Complainants must submit complaints to the cybercrime portal (www.cybercrime.gov.in) and to law enforcement agencies. The measures are taken by the law enforcement authorities in accordance with the provisions of the IT Act.

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