PLDT and its wireless unit Smart Communications remain relentless in protecting children online. As of end-November 2022, PLDT and Smart’s Cyber Security Operations Group (CSOG) have blocked more than 522,000 URLs that show child sexual abuse materials (CSAM).
Speaking at the 2022 National Cybercrime Convention in Manila, Angel Redoble, FVP and Chief Information Security Officer of PLDT and Smart, credited the PLDT Group’s organically developed blocking technology as key to the fight against online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC), “Our pioneering Child Protection Platform has allowed us to block CSAM online on the more difficult content level. By the end of November, we have prevented more than 1.3 billion attempts to open child abuse content.”
The PLDT Group’s membership in the UK-based Internet Watch Foundation and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s Project Arachnid has played a significant role in boosting the reach of its Child Protection Platform. PLDT and Smart’s Cyber Security Operations Group (CSOG) regularly receive hashes pertaining to CSAM from the two organizations that the telcos immediately block.
PLDT and Smart also reiterated their support to the government in the fight against OSAEC. Recognizing that children are among the companies’ active end-users, PLDT and Smart have embedded child safety into their customer experience, and cybersecurity innovations strategy and solutions.
During the Evidence2Action (E2A) conference organized by USAID Asia, CTIP, Winrock International, and Freedom Collaborative, PLDT and Smart shared their online child protection advocacies and best practices before local and international stakeholders.
“We have adopted the Children’s Rights and Business Principles framework and enacted a Child Safeguarding Policy that now guides us in applying a child rights lens into our policies, technology solutions, and shared value partnerships, from inside our organization, and outwards, to the communities where we operate,” said Melissa Vergel De Dios, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of Investor Relations at PLDT and Smart.
The recent Global Child Forum in Stockholm, Sweden gave Cathy Yang, FVP and Group Head of Corporate Communications of PLDT and Smart, the opportunity to share the Group’s partnerships with different stakeholders on child protection, “PLDT and Smart believe in a whole-of-nation approach to solving OSAEC. We work closely with key government offices as well as law enforcement agencies to come up with a comprehensive plan that not only seeks to prevent children from being victimized but, more importantly, launches impactful programs that empower communities.”
In the middle of the year, PLDT and Smart also joined the WePROTECT Global Alliance to expand efforts against OSAEC. The alliance allows PLDT and Smart to tap global resources and connect with like-minded organizations and learn about their efforts to protect children in cyberspace. Backed by the United Kingdom Government, the European Commission, and the United States Department of Justice’s Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online, the Alliance brings together experts from governments, the private sector, civil society, and international organizations to develop policies and solutions to protect children and put a stop to online child abuse globally.
PLDT and Smart actively participated in strengthening Republic Act No. 11930 or the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse or Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) and Anti-Child Sexual Abuse or Exploitation Materials (CSAEM) Act that was passed into law this year. The Group particularly pushed for the inclusion of the ‘Good Samaritan’ clause that would empower internet service providers (ISP) to immediately take down offensive materials without being held civilly, criminally, or administratively liable. The two telcos had expressed their commitment to helping the government draft the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 11930.
Together with the International Justice Mission, PLDT and Smart have been collaborating with the Justice Department’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking which includes the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Center (PNP WCPC) to strengthen technology and capacity of law enforcement to end OSAEC and prosecute perpetrators.
The PLDT Group is also coordinating with communities to support grassroots movements against child abuse and exploitation. PLDT and Smart have influenced local ordinances and policies on internet safety and child protection. This is supported by learning programs for parents, teachers, and other key stakeholders on protecting children against online predators and ensuring a safe online experience.
This year, PLDT and Smart also explored capacity-building programs with ECPAT Philippines to raise awareness on OSAEC and facilitate learning opportunities for teachers and local caregivers on safeguarding children while online.
The group also partnered with Google to localize the ‘Be Internet Awesome ‘curriculum and produce a web series that anchors on universal and Filipino values of being Smart, Alert, Strong, Brave, and Kind to promote digital safety and wellness among kids and families.
All these initiatives underscore PLDT and Smart’s long-term commitment to helping the country attain UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 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.