Block child porn websites, NTC orders Internet providers

NTC directs all ISPs to 'install available technology, program or software that will block access or filter all websites carrying child pornography materials'

MANILA, Philippines – The government is ordering Internet service providers (ISPs) in the Philippines to block access to child pornography.

In a memorandum issued on January 30, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) instructed all ISPs to “install available technology, program or software that will block access or filter all websites carrying child pornography materials.” (READ: How can we end child pornography today)

The ISPs should install these features within 120 days from the submission of a list of at least 3 carrier grade technology to the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP) for evaluation.

NTC’s move is pursuant to Republic Act (RA) 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, RA 7925 or the Public Telecom Policy Act of 1995, and Executive Order No. 546 issued in 1979.

“There were experts (during public consultations) who were one in saying this will help. It may not eradicate (Internet child pornography) completely but this will help,” said Edgardo Cabarios, regulation director of the NTC.

The ISPs will have until June to install the filters, he said.

Cabarios acknowledged that it was almost impossible to block all child pornography but said the filters could keep out the majority. “We all know that websites are easily created so (filtering them) is a moving target,” he added.

The NTC would give the ISPs a list of identified child porn websites – provided by the IACACP – for immediate blocking of access or filtering.

“The ISPs shall be free from any liability arising from its compliance with any order of the NTC for the immediate blocking of access or filtering of any such websites,” the memorandum added.

Then, within 5 days from the end of each month, the ISPs should submit to the IACACP a list of all websites carrying child porn that subscribers attempted to access but were blocked by their respective carrier grade technologies.

The ISPs shall notify the Philippine National Police (PNP) or the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) within 7 days of obtaining evidence that any form of child porn is committed using the ISP’s services or facilities.

The ISPs are also directed to preserve customer data records – specifically the time, origin and destination of access – for purposes of investigation and prosecution by relevant authorities.

Cottage industry?

The memorandum, however, clarified, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to require an ISP to engage in the monitoring of any user, subscriber, or customer, or the content of any communication of any such person.”

The NBI has said that online sexual exploitation in the country is “widespread” and has become a “cottage industry.”

The PNP Anti-Cybercrime Unit also previously said that the Philippines has “rapidly become a key hub of the billion-dollar global child cybersex industry” in 2013, with operators aided by widespread poverty and legal loopholes that allow them to remain anonymous.

In January this year, a report surfaced about a child pornography ring that was raided by authorities in a remote village in Cordova, Cebu. (READ: Horror in online child sex abuse village)

The following month, the NBI raided at least 3 separate sites suspected as cybersex centers. Among those “cybersex dens” was a compound that houses a Christian school in Alabang, Muntinlupa City.

Malacañang vowed to continue action against the cash-for-cybersex scheme in the country that targets mostly minors. It also said that RA 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, can help curb online sex abuse.

The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of most sections of the Cybercrime Law in February, about a month after the NTC memorandum was issued. The penalty imposed by the Cybercrime Law for child pornography is one degree higher than in RA 9775. (READ: Cybersex, media, privacy and the cybercrime law– with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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