Facebook, Twitter urged to crack down on sexual abuse
This file photo taken on October 21, 2020, shows the logo of the multinational American Internet technology and services company, Google (center), the American online social media and social networking service, Facebook (Top R), Snapchat (Bottom R), Twitter (top L) and Instagram (bottom L) on a computer screen in Lille.
Denis Charlet / AFP

Facebook, Twitter urged to crack down on sexual abuse

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 4, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Social media giants like Facebook and Twitter should immediately crack down on the alarming surge in the incidence of criminal activities, particularly online sexual exploitation of women and children, apparently fueled by the lockdown and economic recession, a senator said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate committee on women and children, made the call on Tuesday during a hearing that tackled the worrisome rise in online sexual abuse and child exploitation (OSAEC) incidents in the country.

“It’s not just fake news quickly spreading in social media, but also cases of abuse against our children and women. Social media platforms that still are not able to address this growing problem should be made accountable,” Hontiveros said.

“This is a dramatic rise in a span of only a year. The pandemic really worsened (OSAEC) and more are immersed in social media. Social networks should prioritize ending the proliferation of these crimes before even thinking of expanding their products,” she said.

Facebook officials were not able to attend the inquiry and sent word to Hontiveros’ office that their policy team did not receive the invitation sent by the committee.

During the hearing, Lawrence Aritao of the International Justice Mission said in 2020, they received over 1.2 million reports of online sexual exploitation or almost three times the reports received in 2019, which registered about 400,000.

The Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Office of Cybercrime reported to the panel a higher figure of 1.3 million cyber tipline reports.

Angiereen Medina, officer-in-charge of the DOJ office, said the agency received 426,000 reports on OSAEC that rose to 1,297,000 cyber tipline reports, which include those submitted by social media platforms and other electronic service providers (ESPs).

The ESPs submit such reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a non-profit organization based in the US that also coordinates with the DOJ.

Medina said ESPs do not report directly to Philippine law enforcement authorities but the NCMEC notifies the DOJ whenever they report OSAEC incidents in the country based on ISP addresses.

“Either the sender or receiver of OSAEC materials is here in the Philippines based on its IP address,” Medina said.

She said the cyber tipline reports range from possession and distribution of child pornography to “online enticement” of children for sexual acts or trafficking.

However, out of the 1.3 million cyber tipline reports, only 73 were tagged by the NCMEC as priority or “indicate current or imminent risk to children,” Medina said.

She added that whenever a report is labeled as priority, the DOJ refers it to law enforcement authorities.

If the suspected offender abroad intends to travel to the country based on the analysis of a particular report, her office asks the Bureau of Immigration to blacklist the individual, she said.

Last year, Hontiveros called on the National Bureau of Investigation to take down pages that are sexually exploiting children and asked the agency to arrest users running pages and groups that propagate child sexual abuse materials.

In time for Women’s Month, the senator recently filed Senate Bill 2068 or the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Law imposing duties for social media platforms.

The bill states that any social media network or similar entity found guilty of failing to comply with requirements of the measure shall be penalized P10,000,000.

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