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Globe partners with government, various orgs to end online sexual child abuse

By AUDRIE JULIENNE BERNAS Published Feb 16, 2022 10:00 am

As the pandemic stretches to seemingly endless lockdowns and other restrictions, something harrowing happens outside our range of vision. It's something we fail to see every day as it hides within the walls of the internet: online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC).

A rampant issue in the country for the longest time now, the subject is taboo for most of us, and only by talking about it openly can we help eradicate it.

UNICEF SaferKidsPH reports that one in two teenage children is subjected to varying types of Internet violence, with most of the cases falling under the cyclical system of abuse and online exploitation that happens within the teens' own homes, schools, and their communities.

Within the first three months of ECQ in March 2020, OSAEC cases significantly rose by 26%—over 22,000 new cases in a span of only three months. Emma Hardy, communications director of Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), presented recent data from their 2020 report that found a dramatic 77-percent increase in the amount of “self-generated” abuse material as more children, and more criminals, spend longer online.

According to a study by the US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Philippines is among the world’s top sources of content involving child sexual abuse.

Globe has been working closely with the Philippine government and key stakeholders for the protection of victims of sexual child abuse.

To address the issue, Globe, together with participating organizations, recognized the need to create a safer online space for everyone by putting the “Safer Internet Day” to light in a webinar held last Feb. 8. But how are they doing it in the middle of a tumultuous period in the Philippines, considering the pandemic situation and differing political opinions?

Community-based efforts

It all starts with the child’s own company at home. Struggling families ultimately resort to producing illicit content using their children to earn money quickly to make ends meet in the middle of the pandemic, resulting in the rising reports of online child exploitation.

For UNICEF Child Protection officer Ramil Anton Villafranca, as the digital landscape continues to grow day by day, the effort to eradicate this increasing dilemma should be community-wide to create safer spaces for children and their families, without exposing them to the risks of abuse and exploitation.

In this regard, Atty. Tim Abejo of CitizenWatch highlighted how their team addresses the overlaps and loopholes in the laws that can help protect children, namely, the Republic Act (RA) 9775 otherwise known as the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009; the RA 10364 the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003; the RA 10175 the Cybercrime Preventions Act of 2012; and RA 7610 the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, more commonly known as the “Child Abuse Law.”

Long-term negative effects on victims

Professor Louie Montemar of BK3 (Bantay Konsyumer, Kuryente, Kalsada) talked about how the negative effects of OSAEC can traumatize a child, even after years that they were exposed to these dangerous acts, and how it can severely affect their mental and physical well-being.

“As a staunch advocate for Internet safety, Globe has been working closely with government and key stakeholders to protect our children from sexual abuse online for several years,” said Globe Data Protection officer Irish Salandanan-Almeida.

She added, “The only way for us to truly win this fight is by working together across sectors and recognizing how we, as individuals, can play a part in preventing further cases of OSAEC in the Philippines.”

What is being done to address this?

“We invested over US$2.7 million in content filtering systems that block websites and online imagery that promoted child pornography and online piracy be partnered with global and local organizations to strengthen our efforts,” shared Yoly Crisanto, Globe’s Chief Sustainability officer and SVP for Corporate Communications.

Part of the collaboration are the Department of Justice (DOJ) legal authorities, as well as partners from UNICEF Philippines and the SaferKidsPH Consortium, Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), CitizenWatch, and BK3. All that said, Globe is in the middle of a holistic cooperation among the public and private sectors, international and civil society organizations, and digital citizens in fighting online abuse and child sexual exploitation.

“Through the support of [the Canadian Center for Child Protection], Globe is able to further identify illegal websites and block them out of our network,” Crisanto assured, adding that their digital thumbprint program can also help them trace more websites that publish sexual imagery that involves minors.

“As a digital solutions group, Globe recognizes the need for children to be safe online. We celebrate Safer Internet Day today with the intention of raising awareness and educating consumers about the continued rise of OSAEC in the Philippines.”

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Editor’s Note: BrandedUp is designed to provide you with insightful, inspiring and educational content created by PhilSTAR L!fe in collaboration with brands like Globe.