COMMUNITY | PLDT-Smart to launch tech to help curb online child abuse, exploitation

PLDT Group, and Smart Communications said the telecom group will soon deploy a technology that will block access to sites that contain child porn materials.

PLDT and wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) are boosting efforts against online sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

Angel Redoble, first vice president and chief information security officer of ePLDT Group, PLDT Group, and Smart Communications said the group will soon deploy a technology that will block access to sites that contain child porn materials.

“We have developed a system wherein when a user tries to access these malicious sites, they will automatically be redirected to another page that says the website they are trying to access violates Philippine laws. If everything goes as scheduled, we should have that capability before the year ends,” Redoble said.

Redoble also said that the UK-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) has accepted PLDT-Smart’s application for membership. Once approved, the PLDT group will gain access to IWF’s rich database of web pages linked to child porn allowing it to clamp down further on the trade of illicit content that feature children.

“PLDT-Smart has blocked more than 2,900 sites linked to online sexual abuse and exploitation of children.” said Francisco Ashley Acedillo, PLDT-Smart Center head/assistant vice president for Cyber Security Strategy and Innovation. Acedillo pointed out that upon the recommendation of the National Telecommunication Commission (NTC), Smart has been diligently shutting down web pages that upload these prohibited materials.

Citing data from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the Justice Department has reported that online sexual abuse and exploitation of children cases more than tripled when the country was placed under Extreme Community Quarantine (ECQ) in the second quarter of the yea

The coronavirus pandemic has forced schools to migrate to blended learning which requires children to spend more time on the internet to study. UNICEF has warned about predators preying on children in cyberspace. But the child rights advocate has also reminded authorities that predators could be present at home. UNICEF said that job loss due to the public health crisis could pressure parents or guardians into forcing children to perform lewd acts online for money.

Redoble is asking the government, especially law enforcement agencies, to engage telcos in the fight against online child abuse and exploitation.

“We can share all our efforts and our best practices to help come up with more effective programs to combat these crimes,” Redoble said.

PLDT and Smart, together with other players in the industry, have also been urging Congress to reconcile conflicting laws that hamper anti-child porn efforts.

The PLDT group has been actively seeking guidance on how to champion children’s welfare in its day-to-day operations. Acedillo said that after consultations with UNICEF, PLDT-Smart has integrated child-safeguarding policies into its business – a first in the Philippines. These cover various processes and programs for the workplace, marketing activities, product and service offerings, and trade community engagements.

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