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Editorial

Unending bane of child porn

/ 05:12 AM December 17, 2017

To what should be the Philippines’ great shame, it has an utterly lamentable connection to the evil that is child pornography.

Unicef goes directly to the heart of the matter: “In the Philippines, the risks to children are high, with the country being the No. 1 global source of child pornography and a hub for the livestream sexual abuse trade,” it said recently in a statement that accompanied its report, “The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World.”

This new, wide-open digital world has indeed made the world smaller, but that’s not always a good thing.

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According to Unicef, one out of three children worldwide uses the internet — a development that has been linked to a rising number of kids being abused and sold online or through social media. And while big business is generated by this traffic, big online companies aren’t doing enough to protect the children online.

“Internet service providers are increasingly finding their platforms as vulnerable mediums for exploitation and abuse,” antislavery group head David Westlake told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A report by the United Kingdom’s committee on standards in public life says internet companies who overlook and not take down such terrible content should be penalized through prosecution.

This is, in every way, a clear warning to such web giants as Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube.

“Businesses providing internet platforms have a critical role to play, and should have a statutory duty to ensure children are safe when using their service,” said antitrafficking activist Bharti Patel.

In response, Twitter said it was now acting on 10 times the number of possibly abusive accounts as it did last year, and US web companies have withdrawn opposition to laws aimed at sanctioning websites that enable online sex trafficking.

These big-picture moves are positive developments, but here in the Philippines, the reality is constantly horrifying.

In October, the Philippine National Police expressed alarm at the rising number of incidents of online sex exploitation of children. “[It’s] an emerging threat [to] our children, so we consider it a serious crime,” said Senior Supt. Villamor Tuliao, chief of the antitrafficking in persons division of the PNP Women and Children Protection Center (WCPC).

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Tuliao identified children as the “most vulnerable” in society shortly after the arrest of two men who were offering a 17-year-old girl for sex for P5,000 to a Filipino client in Manila.

These two men, Jamil Santiago and Anthony Mabansag, had apparently been active in international cybersex crime circles, and had been using their social media accounts to get foreign clients to engage in cybersex with children aged 8-15 in exchange for a mere P20,000-P30,000.

The horror grows. The PNP-WCPC operations management division head, Supt. Shiela Marie Portento, said most of the child victims are actually put in this situation by family members.

According to Portento, these family members either naively or willfully believe that the children are safe because it is not physical sex they engage in, and the kids go along because they don’t think their kin would ever put them in danger.

The greater horror is that this story has been told too often.

Early this year, the National Bureau of Investigation arrested three women for selling exploitative videos of children (one of them a daughter of one of the women) to clients in the United States.

In 2013, the NBI raided a house in an impoverished area of Barangay Ibabao in Cordova, Mactan Island, that was the site of a cyberporn ring, and arrested a couple who had forced three minors, including their own 13-year-old daughter, to perform lewd acts online.

Earlier in that same year, the Inquirer reported that 15 families in the barangay were engaging in cyberporn in their very homes.

How has it come to this?

“Only collective action by governments, the private sector, children’s organizations, academia, families and children themselves, can help level the digital playing field and make the internet safer and more accessible for children,” the Unicef said in its report.

And it starts here. Everyone has to do their part in aggressively tackling the unending bane of child porn. As the considered world leader in this evil industry, the Philippines needs to lead the charge.

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