Defending the human rights of children on the internet
YESTERDAY (December 10) was Human Rights Day when everyone should have reflected on their life and dignity and whether their rights are respected and upheld. Those who do the enforcement are human rights workers who stand for the oppressed and the poor. They are wonderful people, Filipinos included, working in a world that is losing respect for human rights. The dedicated defenders of human rights of the people and the environment die for their beliefs.
In the Philippines alone, 25 human rights activists were killed in 2020, according to the International Federation of Human Rights. In the first six months of 2021, 15 more were killed. The dedicated human rights workers are branded as rebels, subversives or terrorists. They even become prime targets for government-sponsored death squads. Between 12,000 and 30,000 people died in the “drug war”.
The government’s own data shows more than 6,190 people were killed in police operations from 2016 to August 2021. Global Witness reports that 19 environmentalists were killed in the Philippines in 2021. However, thirty have died in 2020. An estimated 270 people’s land protectors were killed in the Philippines between 2012 and 2021. Many of the killings were related to protests against deforestation and mining corporations. In fact, they are the true Filipino heroes who stand up for the poor and the downtrodden, the true Christians who lay down their lives for their friends.
No arrests, no evidence, no trials are needed by the authorities; just the nod of the head and there is a police raid and a suspect is killed. Most of the time, the finger pointing is by an informant without evidence. This is going on and it must stop if Filipinos are to be recognized as civilized people with universal respect for human rights and dignity and living free from tyranny, fear, poverty and violence. They must demand that their human rights be respected if the Philippines is ever to become a true democracy. Historically, an enormously wealthy dynastic lineage of conglomerates of ruling families and corporate moguls, numbering several thousand, run the country and own 46 percent of the total wealth among them.
The human rights of children to live free from fear of trafficking, rape and sexual abuse in their families and community and online must be protected. The government and the telecommunications corporations have the main duty to do this in terms of Republic Act (RA) 11903. The long lockdowns at the height of the pandemic have repercussions to this day. Children go back to school and reveal to teachers and classmates how they have been sexually abused by their fathers, other relatives or live-in partners of their mothers and their rights have been violated. Reports of online child sexual abuse skyrocketed during the pandemic, and continue to this day.
As previously reported, the number of online child sexual abuse reports received by the Philippine government’s cybercrime office is staggering. According to the Department of Justice, as reported by the media, there was a 264.63 percent increase in the number of Filipino children who were sexually abused on the Internet during the pandemic in 2021. But it is impossible to know how many children online abuse is if it is a crime against very small children that is done secretly within families. It is tragic for thousands of Filipino children to suffer and endure such abuse by their parents and family members to earn money from foreign pedophiles.
The Philippines is the Asian center of such horrific abuse of children, some as young as three years old. Using a low-cost smartphone connected to the Internet, a child abuser is contacted by a pedophile from a foreign country through Facebook or other social media platforms and offers of money are made to watch sex programs involving young children . Most of the pedophiles are from Europe, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia. The police in these countries send tips to the Philippine police, but their cyber unit is understaffed and underfunded. Moreover, Philippine Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and the telecommunications corporations such as PLDT/Smart, Globe and Dito do not appear to have set up their child abuse search and detection unit to intercept the streaming or transmission of child abuse material through their server computers. as required by the new law.
Republic Act 11930 or the “Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children (Osaec) Act” passed last July 30, 2022 is even stronger in the mandate of the telecommunication corporations to install and block sexual abuse of children online. If they fail to do so, their chief operating officers can be prosecuted and the corporations face large fines based on a percentage of their total net worth.
In previous years, they did not comply with the 2009 Law Against Child Pornography (RA 5779) and no one knows if they even paid fines as a penalty for their non-compliance. The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) demanded in February 2021 that 47 internet service providers show reason in communication. The ISPs argued that the law against child pornography conflicts with the Data Privacy Act and therefore they cannot monitor websites even if they are suspected of doing so. which allows the distribution of child sexual abuse material.
Republic Act 11930 makes it clear what the telecommunications and ISPs must do to protect the human rights of children: “Develop, establish and install mechanisms or measures designed to prevent, detect, respond to violations of this Act or logging into their websites, platforms, applications, servers or facilities … to counter violations of this Act which may include installing available technology, program or software to ensure that access to or streaming of violations of this Wet will be removed, blocked or filtered.”
When these Internet intermediaries, as the ISPs are called, detect or receive information about child abuse images or live streaming of abuse, they must immediately block it within 24 hours. The law also states that they must “develop and adopt a set of systems and procedures for the prevention, blocking, detection and reporting of Osaec and Csaem committed within their platforms.”
If they do not comply and violate the rights of the child by omission, their staff will be held liable: “If the offender is a legal person, the fine will be imposed on the owner, manager, partner, member of the board of directors and/or any responsible officer of an enterprise who participated in the commission of the crime or knowingly permitted or failed to prevent its commission In addition, the corporations shall be fined a minimum of ten (10) percent , but not more than thirty (30) percent of their net worth, and their respective licenses or permits to operate, may be revoked.”
Child victims will have the right to sue them for violation of their rights. These laws and others must be implemented to stop the horrific trade in child abuse and protect the rights of the child.