PLDT and its wireless unit, Smart, are stepping up their efforts to shut down internet sites that host online child abuse content.
PLDT and Smart had blacklisted about 30,000 URLs with explicit content affecting children by the end of June 2021.
Over 9,000 of these are current URLs, while over 20,000 have previously expired and have been removed from the system by the Group.
PLDT and Smart banned access to nearly 20,000 URLs associated with online sexual abuse and exploitation of children, or OSAEC, in the second half of June alone, quadrupling their haul from the first half. Their participation in the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), based in the United Kingdom, enabled them to accomplish this feat.
“Now, that we have fully integrated IWF’s database into our child protection platform, we can act swiftly to cut access to online child abuse materials,” said Angel Redoble, Chief Information Security Officer at PLDT and Smart.
In the fight against OSAEC, PLDT and Smart are the first firms in the Philippines to join the Internet Watch Foundation, a global alliance of more than 150 organizations led by some of the world’s largest internet corporations. Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Telefonica, and Vodafone are all members of the IWF.
“Child protection has become a way of doing business for PLDT and Smart, beyond just regulatory compliance and corporate social responsibility. Seeing children as end-users of our connectivity and digital services, we strive to fulfill our role in keeping them safe and well online and commit to cooperate in both local and global multi-sectoral solutions to end OSAEC,” said Catherine Yap-Yang, Group Head and First Vice President of Corporate Communications of PLDT and Smart.
PLDT and Smart have also ramped up dialogues with the government in advancing the protection of children in the digital world. In a recent conversation with the Justice Department-led Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), Justice Assistant Secretary Nicholas Felix L. Ty commended the two companies for the steps they’ve taken in clamping down online child abuse, “The efforts shown by PLDT and Smart are not just to comply with the law, but acknowledge a greater corporate social responsibility that goes beyond what is required by law. This demonstrates their sincerity to really put a stop to OSAEC.” Ty added that through the dialogue, they have “gained ideas on multi-dimensional approaches to combat OSAEC.”
In the fight against online child abuse, PLDT and Smart have partnered with like-minded organizations. Both companies have been working with the International Justice Mission (IJM) to find methods to make the internet a more child-friendly environment. They have sought IJM’s advice in their attempts to prevent minors from being sexually exploited online, particularly in the law enforcement and detection components of these initiatives. PLDT, Smart, and IJM are in talks to help develop national reporting hotline mechanisms so that concerned citizens can report OSAEC-related illegal actions.
PLDT and Smart have also partnered with UNICEF to protect children and advocate for their rights, making them the first Philippine-based firms to do so. PLDT and Smart also piloted the upgraded Mobile Operators Child Rights Impact Self-Assessment (MOCRIA) methodology in May, making them the first in Southeast Asia to do so.
The IWF is a non-profit organization backed by the global internet industry and the European Commission that works closely with national law enforcement agencies, internet service providers and platforms, and charitable organizations to remove webpages, keywords, hash lists, and digital fingerprints that contain child abuse materials.
The IWF’s highly educated analysts actively scan the internet for child sexual abuse photographs and videos, in addition to receiving reports from the public through its 47 reporting portals, which serve 2.4 billion people throughout the world. They then collaborate with international partners to have these removed.
The IWF membership also helps PLDT and Smart comply with Republic Act 9775, widely known as the Philippine Anti-Child Pornography Law. As evidenced by their active participation in discussions to amend and strengthen the avowed purpose of RA 9775, the two telcos support the position of the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunication Operators (PCTO) in urging Congress to reconcile conflicting laws that impact ISP compliance and thwart anti-OSAEC efforts.
PLDT and Smart continue to work with law enforcement agencies to stop the exploitation and abuse of children on the internet. With expanded capabilities, they’re now exploring different methods to help authorities in the investigation of OSAEC cases.
Smart, through its premium postpaid brand Smart Infinity, has also opened up a mobile-based donation platform that allows customers to support the safety of children online and anti-OSAEC initiatives, in partnership with Kids for Kids PH and through the PLDT-Smart Foundation. To donate, Smart Infinity customers can just key in INFINITE <space> AMT to 3456.