Duties on social networks to stop online child abuse urged

Citing global reports that Facebook Messenger was responsible for 16.8 million of the 18.4 million reports of child sexual abuse material, or 91% of the total, Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday said her bill to stop online sexual child abuses imposes additional duties on Facebook and other social media networks.

Under Hontiveros’ Committee Report No. 257, or an Act Providing Special Protections Against Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children (OSAEC), Facebook and other internet intermediaries are enjoined to block and remove child sexual abuse or exploitation material within 24 hours from receipt of notice.

Social networks, Hontiveros said, are also bound to preserve evidence in its possession, and to develop and adopt systems and procedures for preventing, blocking, detecting, and reporting of OSAEC cases.

“My office even held bilateral meetings with Facebook and with Google because if we want to strategically address OSAEC, we really need the buy-in of internet intermediaries and social media networks,” said Hontiveros during her sponsorship speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

Hontiveros noted that the Philippines is one of the global hotspots of child sexual abuse and exploitation committed on online platforms.

She also cited UNICEF findings that showed that in 2016, the Philippines is one of the top ten countries producing child sexual abuse and exploitation materials. The youngest recorded Filipino victim of OSAEC is a two-month-old baby, Hontiveros noted.

According to the Department of Justice, cases of OSAEC in the Philippines increased by 264.6 percent during the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine from March to May 2020. 

Because of these situations, Hontiveros cited as urgent the need to end this form of child abuse.

“But it is equally important that -- because of the unique features and the peculiar difficulties of the crime considering its online and often transnational element -- we make sure that the tools we use are good tools,” she added.

Hontiveros said the bill also defines and penalizes OSAEC as a specific crime, and distinct from offenses under Republic Acts 7610 (Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act) and RA 9208 (Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003).

It provides additional tools for law enforcers to pursue perpetrators of OSAEC, especially those who hiding under the veil of anonymity provided by online platforms, she said.

Furthermore, it prohibits the entry into the Philippines of all convicted offenders of OSAEC or similar or equivalent crimes in other jurisdictions, or those aliens reported to or being monitored by Philippine law enforcement authorities for conducting OSAEC activities.

It also creates the National Coordination Center Against OSAEC (NCC-OSAEC) which shall be lodged under the Department of Justice and shall be the point-of-contact and coordination system for the receipt of cyber-tipline reports.

Finally, it mandates a gender-responsive, age-appropriate, child-friendly, victim-centered and trauma-informed set of protocols for reporting, detecting, investigating, prosecuting and providing aftercare assistance and support in OSAEC cases. 

Topics: Facebook Messenger , social media networks , child sexual abuse , Senator Risa Hontiveros
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