Fri. Jun 25th, 2021

MANILA – A group of local telecommunications firms has reiterated its commitment to supporting the government’s fight against child pornography.

In a position paper submitted to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and made public on Wednesday, the Philippine Chamber of Telecom Operators (PCTO) said its members would continue to block child pornographic websites as part of their duty under Republic Act (RA) 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.

“(The) 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.

The PCTO is the umbrella organization of duly enfranchised telecommunication entities and Internet service providers (ISPs), including telco giants PLDT, Inc. and Globe Telecom.

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.

Members of the PCTO 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 pornography sites.

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

PCTO member Globe Telecom has blocked a total of 2,521 sites that have been identified by the NTC and law enforcement agencies.

The Ayala-owned telco firm invested in a software filtering system worth USD2.7 million to support its “PlayItRight” campaign targeting illegal or pirated content and online child pornography.

Through their Cyber Security Operations Group (CSOG), PLDT and its subsidiary, Smart Communications, have been actively identifying and blocking child pornography websites 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 sexual exploitation of children through text hotline 7444-64 set up by the PNP Women and Children Protection Center and the International Justice Mission.

During a meeting with the DOJ in March, PCTO members, 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, and other stakeholders and Microsoft did not push through because of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the PCTO urged the DOJ to consider amending 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 that 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.

The PCTO likewise noted 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. (PNA)

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