The International Justice Mission (IJM) recently lauded PLDT and Smart for expanding their arsenal against online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC).
IJM, a global organization that combats trafficking and slavery as well as violence against women and children, is looking forward to expanding its partnership with PLDT and Smart.
“International Justice Mission is pleased to be working with PLDT and Smart in our common mission to make the internet a safer place for children, said Atty. Samson Inocencio, Jr., Regional Vice President, IJM Global Program against Online Sexual Exploitation of Children. "We commend PLDT and Smart for their ongoing efforts toward this end, such as proactively blocking websites that host child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM).”
As of end May, PLDT and Smart have cut access to more than 8,000 links hosting sexually explicit materials featuring children. Crucial to this endeavor is their recent membership into the UK-based Internet Watch Foundation or IWF.
“The value of our IWF membership is that we are provided real-time updates on URLs containing child abuse materials. Now that we have configured our child protection platform to the IWF database, we can immediately block OSEC-related links even on the content level,” said Angel Redoble, Chief Information Security Officer at PLDT and Smart.
In IJM’s technical paper called “Philippine ISP Visibility: Technology, Limitations, and Recommendations Related to Combating the Online Sexual Exploitation of Children”, the organization had been advocating for internet service providers (ISP) to “obtain memberships in organizations that can provide regularly updated URLs linked to child sexual exploitation materials (CSEM) to block those particular sites,” such as the IWF.
“We are encouraged by PLDT and Smart's recent membership with Internet Watch Foundation, which is consistent with IJM's recommendation,” Inocencio, Jr. added.
Backed by the global internet industry and the European Commission, the IWF is a non-profit organization that works closely with law enforcement agencies of national governments, internet service providers and platforms, and charitable organizations in taking down webpages, keywords, hash lists, and digital fingerprints that contain child abuse materials.
After formalizing their membership, PLDT and Smart have gained access to IWF’s growing database of more than 9,000 illicit links. In the second half of May alone, PLDT and Smart were able to block more than 3,000 URLs sourced from IWF’s expansive blacklist.
Prior to their alliance with IWF, PLDT and Smart have been blocking illegal sites through open-source threat intelligence gathering, purchasing available commercial threat intelligence and receiving information from the government through law enforcement agencies.
PLDT and Smart have been exploring ways with IJM to make the internet a safer place for children. They have sought the guidance of IJM in their efforts to curtail OSEC, especially in the law enforcement and detection aspects of these programs. Now, PLDT, Smart, and IJM are in talks to continually help strengthen nationwide reporting hotline systems for concerned citizens to report OSEC-related activities.
The parties have been in talks to setup a nationwide reporting hotline for the Department of Justice-led Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ-IACAT), where concerned citizens can report OSEC-related activities.
“Together with IJM, PLDT and Smart will explore initiatives that advocate for and protect the welfare of children. As future stakeholders and nation-builders, children have always been at the heart of PLDT and Smart. We are committed to promote awareness and take accountability in upholding children’s rights, protecting them from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation, and empowering them to actively and harmoniously participate in family, cultural and community life,” said Catherine Yap-Yang, First Vice President and Group Head of Corporate Communications at PLDT and Smart.
In the past, PLDT and Smart have provided connectivity and technical assistance to enable services for the quick reporting of OSEC cases through a text hotline set up by the PNP Women and Children Protection Center and the IJM.
“IJM is looking forward to a stronger and more fruitful collaboration with PLDT and Smart as we ramp up the fight to end online sexual exploitation of children in the Philippines and around the world,” said Inocencio, Jr.
These initiatives underscore PLDT and Smart’s long-term commitment to help the country attain UNSDG #16 that promotes just, peaceful and inclusive societies including the end to abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.