March 5, 2021

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Philippine Department of Information and Communications Technology emphasises online child safety

The Philippine Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) reminded telecommunications companies and Internet service providers (ISP’s) of their duties and responsibilities to comply with the country’s existing laws against online child sexual exploitation.  This is following the rise of cases of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children during the long home quarantines and country-wide lockdowns brought by the pandemic.

It is also supported by the country’s Inter-Agency Council against Child Pornography (ICACP) in partnership with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund’s (UNICEF) SaferKidsPH via the Free Wi-Fi for All Program’s Child Online Safeguarding Policy. The programme bolsters the DICT’s Child Online Safeguarding Policy (COSP) under Section 11 of the “Protection of Children” under R.A. 10929 or the “Free Internet Access in Public Places Act”, of which the DICT is the main implementing body.

As reported by OpenGov, the restrictions set by the DICT will prove to be more vital as The Philippine Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) and private firm inked a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) for a partnership to improve the bandwidth capabilities of government housing projects in the country, possibly increasing the number of internet users at home.

The government has recently issued a directive for the immediate imposition of sanctions on ISP’s that allow the use of their platforms for online exploitation. The Department of Justice (DOJ), in response, has recommended the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to penalise ISP’s for failing to fulfill their duties under Republic Act No. 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009,

The NTC and the DICT are continuously monitoring ISP’s compliance with the said law, which mandates all ISPs to notify the Philippine National Police (PNP) or the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) of any form of child pornography committed using its servers or facilities within seven days upon obtaining facts and evidence.

ISP’s, however, are prohibited to engage from the monitoring of any user, subscriber or customer, or the content of any communication of any such person. All ISP’s are also required to install available technology, programmes or software to ensure that access to or transmittal of any form of child pornography will be blocked or filtered.

Encouragingly in January this year, The Philippines’ largest integrated telco and its wireless unit continue to fortify protection from online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC) during the coronavirus pandemic. To date, the group has taken down 3,011 sites that host illicit content featuring children as mandated by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

The group is also building up further the capacity of its network-based child protection platform and is currently testing additional technologies that would allow automatic blocking of end-user access to OSAEC or child pornographic content.

“When users try to open these malicious materials that are on our network blacklist, our child protection platform will automatically redirect them to a landing page that informs them that the files they’re trying to access violate the country’s Anti-Child Pornography Law,” explained the group’s FVP and Chief Information Security Officer.

Meanwhile, the NTC recently issued show-cause orders to select ISP’s for their non-compliance with the law and required them to provide a written justification why such a breach should not be sanctioned administratively. The ISP’s will also be attending mandatory hearings before the NTC.

The DICT reminded service providers that the government takes the matter of online child sexual exploitation very seriously and is closely coordinating with the NTC in exploring measures to prevent this and ensure compliance of Telcos and ISP’s with the provisions of the law.

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