PHILIPPINES – Leading fiber broadband provider Converge ICT Solutions Inc. has inked a Memorandum of Agreement with child rights protection group Stairway Foundation Inc. to advance the cause of preventing the abuse of children online.
In a virtual ceremony held Tuesday, Converge and Stairway concluded an agreement to raise awareness of incidence of online sexual abuse of children (OSAEC). The ceremony was witnessed by supporting organizations under the Inter-Agency Council Against Child Pornography (IACACP) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
“More than curbing the consumption of OSAEC content, the market for which is the West, we are making strides to ensure the creation of such content is stopped.This is why we partnered with Stairway Foundation, a Philippine NGO promoting children’s rights through awareness, community assistance, and networking. Through programs of rights awareness and education, Converge can more actively contribute to child protection in a preventive, not just a palliative, way,” said Converge Strategy Officer Benjamin B. Azada.
“The average age of children first going online is 10 years old. With the basic education continuity plan of DepEd, the number may be much lower. They spend an average of two hours online. The internet is very much ingrained into children’s lives today and we have to be aware of the greater risk involved,” said Ysrael Diloy, Stairway Foundation Inc. Child Protection Specialist.
Stairway and Converge will collaborate in the creation of campaign materials to raise awareness on the high incidence of OSAEC in the country.
Parallel to the MOA signing, Converge also launched its own information and awareness campaign called “Undo Filter” to enjoin its employees and third-party stakeholders to be vigilant on their children’s activities online.
“Technology distorts reality through different filters and hides these underground activities. While Converge is an advocate of the benefits of technology, we know there are downsides as well. Instead of the internet being used for the education and development of our children, it is being used by criminals to exploit and profit off of them. With this campaign, we encourage everyone to go deeper into what goes on in your child’s online world, and be proactive in reporting incidents to authorities, or to us, the ISP,” noted Jay-Anne Encarnado, Corporate Communications and Public Relations Director.
Two video materials were released as part of the “Undo Filter” campaign, portraying potential scenarios of real life situations children find themselves in.
Converge, for its part, has scaled up its security measures on the network side to filter sites hosting imagery and videos of sexual abuse of children. So far, 20,000 websites have been blocked on Converge’s network, effectively curbing the heavy traffic to these illicit sites that has been averaging 1,200 hits per minute.
Converge Chief Technology Officer Ronald G. Brusola noted, “Over P 100 million has been spent by Converge on these substantial technological upgrades”.
According to IACACP the Philippines is a hotbed for live streamed content of online child abuse, the main markets of which are Western countries. According to the Department of Justice’s cybercrime office, reports of OSAEC tripled in 2020 from 2019, reaching 1.3 million reports.
“The Anti-Money Laundering Council also reported that suspicious transactions linked to sexual abuse of children has doubled from P 65.8 million in 2019 to P 113.1 million in the first half of 2020. This shows that the pandemic created a perfect storm for OSAEC,” noted IACACP Chair, DSWD Assistant Secretary Glenda Relova.
ISPs play a crucial role in identifying OSAEC, for the effective action of law enforcement and prosecutors.
Converge vows continued coordination with government and non-profit organizations on ensuring its technology is ironclad to block malicious websites and to help in the prosecution of perpetrators.
“This is not just a trend, it’s a reality. And we can’t do it alone, we need the help of the public to put a stop to this. How? By reporting to DSWD, our social workers, to the police, to the ISPs. We need the public’s help in reporting these incidents,” Christian Bioc, IACACP Secretariat and DSWD Social Welfare Officer.
To report cases of OSAEC: Text DSWD <space> blockchildporn <space> URL address and send to 2327; or text blockchildporn <space> URL address and send to 0918-912-2813.