PLDT and Smart Commit to Support the Marcos Administration in Strengthening Efforts Against OSAEC

Following the recent directive of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for the government to intensify measures against online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC), PLDT Inc. (PLDT) and Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) affirm continuing support and strengthening of parallel efforts to protect Filipino children online. 

“We laud the President for raising the alarm and reinforcing the urgency of solutions against OSAEC. PLDT and Smart remain committed to working with the government and supporting multi-sectoral efforts to curb this crime and making the digital environment safer for our children,” said PLDT and Smart President and CEO Manuel V Pangilinan. 

From June 2021 until end March 2024, PLDT and Smart have already blocked more than 1 million URLs and online content linked to OSAEC. Both telcos have also blocked over 5.6 million end-user attempts to access child abuse sites since November 2021. 

PLDT and Smart utilize a pioneering Child Protection Platform that enables detection and blocking of child sexual abuse and exploitation materials (CSAEM) on the domain and content level without violating data privacy laws. Both telcos work with global organizations to source dynamic intelligence on CSAEM, including UK-based charity Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) and the Canadian Centre for Children Protection for its Project Arachnid. They are engaging further with the IWF to explore new strategies and keep abreast of emerging trends surrounding OSAEC, including the rise of self-generated CSAEM and the growing use of Artificial Intelligence to exploit children online. 

Further to deploying technology solutions, PLDT and Smart have been actively sharing their industry expertise and best practices to support the government in crafting policies and boosting capacity to combat OSAEC. Both telcos earlier worked with both houses of Congress and with the Department of Justice in the development of the landmark legislation against OSAEC, the Republic Act 11930 or the Anti-OSAEC and Anti-CSAEM Law. 

To help combat OSAEC in the grassroots, PLDT and Smart are also supporting technology and capacity-building efforts of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children units in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Quezon City, and Angeles City, Pampanga, through a multi-year program with the youth organization Kids for Kids PH and the SaferKidsPH consortium of UNICEF, Save the Children, and the Asia Foundation.

PLDT and Smart have earlier backed the Scale of Harm study by the International Justice Mission and the University of Nottingham Rights Lab, which aimed to estimate prevalence of OSAEC in the Philippines and revealed that nearly 500,000 Filipino children have been trafficked to produce new CSAEM in 2022 alone.

PLDT and Smart also enable technology for the Makabata Helpline 1383 of the Council for the Welfare of Children. This provides the public with a channel to report cases of abuses and violations on child rights, including OSAEC. 

“We aim to continue forging partnerships and participating in constant dialogues with our national and local government agencies, and with local and global civil society organizations to stay updated and keep enhancing our capability to protect children online,” said PLDT and Smart Chief Sustainability Officer Melissa V Vergel de Dios

In 2018, PLDT and Smart made a public commitment to place children at the heart of their businesses by integrating children’s rights in their operations. The telcos have since developed a Child Safeguarding Policy to institutionalize child safety provisions in their human resources, product development, marketing, technology, and stakeholder engagements, among others. “These initiatives anchor on our strategic focus to embed sustainability in our operations. Recognizing children as active end-users of our services and as important members of society, child protection will always be integral to our efforts of bridging the digital divide and doing business responsibly,” said Vergel de Dios.

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