Telcos reaffirm support to government’s drive vs child porn as 2,521 web sites blocked


THE country’s telecom operators and Internet service providers (ISPs) have blocked a total of 2,521 child pornographic web sites as part of their commitment to help the government curb online child pornography and sexual abuse in the country.

In a position paper submitted to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, members of the Philippine Chamber of Telecom Operators (PCTO) have acknowledged its duty under Republic Act (RA) 9775, or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, to install a program, or software, that could block access to, or transmittal of any form, of child pornography in the Internet.

Section 9 of RA 9775 requires ISPs to notify authorities within seven days from discovery that any form of child pornography is being committed using their servers, or facilities.

PCTO is the umbrella organization of duly enfranchised telecommunication entities and ISPs, including telco giants PLDT Inc. and the Ayala-owned Globe Telecom.

Its members have been closely coordinating with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and law-enforcement agencies, such as the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), in blocking child pornographic sites.

The NTC, which is an active member of the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography established by RA 9775, has so far endorsed to the telcos and ISPs more than 6,000 web sites and links for blocking.

Aside from the 2,521 blocked web sites, the Globe Telecom invested in a software filtering system worth $2.7 million to support its “PlayItRight” campaign targeting illegal, or pirated content, and online child pornography.

On the other hand, PLDT and its subsidiary, Smart Communications, through their Cyber Security Operations Group (CSOG), have been actively identifying and blocking child pornography web sites when informed by the PNP and NBI.

PLDT and Smart have also provided connectivity and technical assistance to enable services for the quick reporting of cases of online sex exploitation of children through text hot line 7444-64 set up by the PNP Women and Children Protection Center and the International Justice Mission.

“PCTO condemns child pornography as a reprehensible crime that should be rightfully curtailed by the state. Blocking of unlawful content is a state duty which ISPs support,” the group said.

During a meeting with the DOJ in March, PCTO—particularly PLDT and Smart—proposed that the government consider the use of a technology solution developed by Microsoft.

However, follow-up meetings between the DOJ, the ISPs, other stakeholders and Microsoft did not push through because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, PCTO urged the DOJ to push for the amendment of Section 9 of RA 9775 which, it said, contained conflicting provisions.

Section 9 requires ISPs to monitor the content passing through their servers and report to authorities any Internet address which may contain any form of child pornography.

It also provides that “nothing in this section may be construed to require an ISP to engage in the monitoring of any user, subscriber or customer, of the content of any communication of such person.”

This, according to PCTO, in effect nullifies and prevents ISPs from performing the duties imposed under Section 9.

PCTO likewise pointed out that RA 10173, or the Data Privacy Act of 2012, imposes strict privacy responsibilities on entities that collect, or process, personal information of customers, which contradicts the duties imposed on ISPs under RA 9775.

“Accordingly, we urge the [DOJ] to consider amending RA 9775 to rectify the statutory conflicts identified above, taking into account the paramount objective of protecting the welfare of children who are victims of child pornography and online sexual abuse,” it said.

It can be recalled that last May, the DOJ urged ISPs to comply with its obligation under RA 9775 after online child sexual exploitation reportedly went up more than 200 percent during the quarantine period.

The DOJ-Office of Cybercrime (OOC) noted a 264.63-percent increase in the number of reported online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) during the three-month quarantine period imposed by the government to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.

The data showed that from the period of March 1 to May 24, when the country has been placed under a state of public health, the DOJ-OOC said the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) had received 279,166 reported incidents of OSEC compared to 76,651 that were reported last year during the same period.

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