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Nearly 30,000 child abuse links blocked by PLDT, Smart

by SMART Public Affairs | Jul 09, 2021
PLDT and its wireless unit, Smart pick up the pace clamping down on internet links hosting online child abuse materials. 

By the end of June 2021, PLDT and Smart had blocked almost 30,000 URLs with explicit content involving children. 

More than 9,000 of these are active URLs, while over 20,000 have already expired which the Group has purged out of the system. 

In the second half of June alone, PLDT and Smart denied access to almost 20,000 URLs linked to online sexual abuse and exploitation of children or OSAEC, quadrupling its haul in the first half of June. This feat has been made possible by their membership into the UK-based Internet Watch Foundation or IWF.  

“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.  

PLDT and Smart are the first companies in the Philippines to join the Internet Watch Foundation, a global coalition of more than 150 organizations that includes some of the world’s largest tech giants in the fight against OSAEC. The IWF counts Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Telefonica, and Vodafone among its members.    

“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.”    

PLDT and Smart have also engaged like-minded organizations in the fight against online child abuse. Both companies have been exploring ways with the International Justice Mission or IJM to make the internet a safer place for children. They have sought IJM’s guidance in efforts to curtail online sexual exploitation of children, especially in the law enforcement and detection aspects of these programs. PLDT, Smart, and IJM are in talks to continually help strengthen nationwide reporting hotline systems for concerned citizens to report these OSAEC-related illicit activities.  

PLDT and Smart have also been working with UNICEF to protect children and advocate for their rights, making them the first Philippine-based companies to embed child safeguarding principles into their business operations. In May, PLDT and Smart also piloted the enhanced Mobile Operators Child Rights Impact Self-Assessment (MOCRIA) tool, becoming pioneers in Southeast Asia to adopt UNICEF’s updated instrument.  

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.    

Aside from receiving reports from the public through their 47 reporting portals serving 2.4 billion people around the world, the IWF’s highly trained analysts actively search the internet for child sexual abuse images and videos. They then work with global partners to get these removed.    

The IWF membership has also enabled PLDT and Smart to block these illicit files on the more difficult content level. With this capability, PLDT and Smart can prevent customers from accessing identified child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) including those that have been uploaded on legitimate domains without cutting access to the entire website.    

The IWF membership is also a leap forward in boosting PLDT and Smart’s compliance with Republic Act 9775 or the Philippine Anti-Child Pornography Law. 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 hamper anti-OSAEC efforts as evidenced by their active participation in discussions to amend and strengthen the avowed purpose of RA 9775.  

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. 

These initiatives underscore PLDT and Smart’s commitment to help the country attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG), particularly UNSDG #16 which promotes just, peaceful and inclusive societies including the end to abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.


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