New law puts pressure on private stakeholders to protect children vs online sexual abuse

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 3) — A new law requires social media platforms, internet portals, and internet service providers to step up efforts against online sexual abuse to protect children.

The Republic Act No. 11930 or Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) lapsed into law on July 30, according to Sen. Risa Hontiveros, the author and sponsor of the Senate bill. It amends the Anti-Pornography Act or Republic Act No. 9775 to give more teeth to the law to protect minors against online sexual exploitation, disregarding any form of consent from the child.

The Anti-OSAEC Law increases the responsibilities and accountability of social media platforms, electronic service providers, as well as internet and financial intermediaries.

Hontiveros on Wednesday said these internet intermediaries are required to complete three things or face penalty: take down materials that violate the rights of children, preserve evidence, and immediately transmit the proof to law enforcement agencies.

Failure to do so will result in prision mayor in its medium period — or imprisonment of 8 years and 1 day to 10 yrs — and a maximum fine of P2 million for the first offense. In the case of subsequent offense, the maximum fine is P3 million and revocation of its license or franchise to operate.

Under the law, producing, willingly accessing, and knowingly sharing any form of child sexual abuse and exploitative material (CSAEM) are considered punishable under Republic Act No. 11930.

Grooming, or an adult communicating with a minor online to have a sexual or romantic relationship or produce sexual materials — provided that grooming takes place online as a prelude to violations — is also against the law.

Those who stream any form of child sexual abuse and willfully subscribe to watch or support the channel will be penalized. It also covers individuals who sexualize children by presenting or talking about them as objects of sexual fantasy online.

While Hontiveros believes that the passage of the law is a "big step in the right direction," it also has several limitations.

"Hindi pa tagos ito sa tinatawag na dark web. Hindi pa nito masasagot ang limitations ng end-to-end encryption. Hindi nito mapapasukan ang mga private messaging," she said in a media briefing.

[Translation: This cannot penetrate the dark web yet. It cannot solve the limitations of end-to-end encryptions. We cannot look into private messages.]

The lawmaker said they are now in talks with messaging app Telegram, YouTube, and data storage hubs.

The new law also grants additional tools to law enforcers when surveilling and investigating OSAEC cases, she added.

Another feature of the law is the creation of the National Coordinating Center against OSAEC and Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Material (CSAEM), which will be under the Inter Agency Council against Trafficking. It also establishes protections and guarantees for child victims of OSAEC to address any psycho-social needs.