Internet service providers urged to bar porn sites

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Sunday, March 16, 2014


CEBU CITY -- Internet service providers and telecommunications companies need to set up software that will monitor and block websites that carry porn, especially child porn, states an order of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

The NTC, in issuing this memorandum circular, is complying with the Anti-Child Pornography Act or Republic Act 9775, which became a law last November 2009.

But in doing so, it will also violate personal freedoms, like the freedom of expression and of choosing what to read or view online, a lawyer and an educator pointed out.

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NTC networks and facilities division officer-in-charge Samuel Sabile said in a forum that the commission will implement the memorandum this month.

Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) Central Visayas chief and Regional State Prosecutor Fernando Gubalane said the NTC’s memorandum may put an end to child pornography and webcam child sex tourism (WCST).

“Any move that would put safeguards (on the Internet) like this one, I would support it,” Gubalane said.

Child porn

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) will spend 10,000 pounds or nearly P750,000 to gain access to a global database of child abusers, as part of its campaign against those who use minors in pornography and other crimes on the Internet.

Supt. Gilbert Sosa said the amount, recently approved by PNP Chief Director General Alan Purisima, is an initial contribution to the Virtual Global Task Force (VGT), an association of law enforcement agencies worldwide.

Sosa heads the PNP’s anti-cybercrime group.

In Cebu, law enforcers from 2011 to 2013 have rescued more than 20 minors and arrested at least 10 adults, most of them parents who allegedly ran online pornography operations at home in Cordova town.

Under RA 9775, child pornography “refers to any representation, whether visual, audio or written combination thereof, by electronic, mechanical, digital, optical, magnetic or any other means, of a child engaged or involved in real or simulated explicit sexual activities.”

Freedom

Section 9 states that ISPs should “install available technology, program or software to ensure that access to or transmittal of any form of child pornography will be blocked or filtered.”

The NTC was also mandated to formulate rules in implementing the provision, within 90 days of the law’s effectivity.

The ISPs that fail to follow will be fined P500,000 to P1 million.

But filtering private email or social networking site accounts violates personal freedom, said lawyer Maria Cecilia Soria, co-convenor of the group that drafted the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom.

She pointed out that while the NTC’s action was mandated by Republic Act 9775, it will also violate individual privacy. “They would monitor a person’s online activity,” she said.

A student who has homework about reproductive health or any matter involving body parts, for example, may not be able to access websites that can answer his or her queries, said Soria.

“Who can tell that a person is watching child porn?” she also said. “There are minors who look like they are adults.”

Crucial issue

University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu professor Rhodora Bucoy also pointed to the need to make sure the law does not infringe on the exercise of freedoms.

“We have to look into the possible impact of this on the exercise of freedoms, such as freedom of expression online,” she said.

Professor Bucoy, who is also a women’s rights advocate, said she doubted if the telecommunication companies would do everything the NTC and the law require.

“It is a crucial issue. The problem lies in the implementation,” said Bucoy. “We need an inter-agency, multi-sectoral and coordinated effort to curb, if not eliminate, cyber pornography.”

Another law, RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, punishes content-related offenses like cybersex and child pornography.

The law defines cybersex as “willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration.”

But last month, the Supreme Court declared that some provisions violated the Constitution, like the takedown clause that would have allowed the Department of Justice, even in the absence of a court order, to restrict or block access to any data violating the law.

Filtering

Senior Insp. Michael Virtudazo, the Regional Anti-Cybercrime Group (RACG) chief, said the NTC’s move can be effective in filtering pornographic portals.

He cited the RA 9775 provision that states ISPs should report to law enforcement agencies if they “obtain facts and circumstances that child pornography is being committed using their server or facility.”

Virtudazo also believes that ISPs should filter email, instant messaging systems and “other means” to transmit porn online.

For his part, Sabile said the NTC is transferring the current Internet protocol version (IPV) 4 to IPV6, so the authorities can monitor Internet activities in smaller and more specific locations, like houses.

He said IP address monitoring can only be done at the level of the barangay, town or city. If a user in one barangay enters a pornographic site, the barangay’s IP address will register, said Sabile.

Section 9 of the law directs ISPs to report to the law enforcement agencies “within seven days from obtaining facts and circumstances that any form of child pornography is being committed using its server or facility.”

Under Section 12, local governments are authorized to regulate Internet cafes or kiosks to make sure they abide by the Anti-Child Pornography Act.

Global database

As to spending P750,000 to gain access to that global database on child abusers, Sosa said that the PNP wants to focus on addressing the production and distribution of abusive materials.

“For every cybercrime committed, there is a financial loss behind it. In every child abuse material produced, there is a minor who has been corrupted,” he said.

The VGT database contains information on those charged with producing child abuse materials, but it cannot be accessed by non-members, Sosa said.

“Those with cases involving the production of child abuse materials, binabantayan na sila kapag nag-travel (these people are watched when they travel. They (the VGT) has software and hardware to help the investigation,” said Sosa.

The PNP’s anti-cybercrime group said it continues to train its 120 personnel and spread awareness to the public, especially to the parents.

“All of us will benefit if we can bring down cybercrime, if not eliminate it,” Sosa said. (With Third Anne Peralta of Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 17, 2014.

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