Old Problem, New Solution: NTC to Require Internet Service Providers to Block Child Pornography Websites

Timely Solution. This is the appropriate description for the latest issuance of the National Telecommunications Commission (“NTC”), the government agency that regulates Philippines’ telecommunications infrastructure and services. On January 30, 2014, the NTC issued Memorandum Circular (the “Circular”) Number 01-01-2014 providing guidelines for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the implementation of the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 (Republic Act No. 9775). The release of the Circular came at an opportune time after the Philippines was reportedly included by the Virtual Global Taskforce – an international alliance of law enforcement agencies against online child abuse – as among the top ten countries with rampant cyber pornographic activities involving boys and girls between ten to fourteen years.[1]  The said report might have been the catalyst that triggered the NTC to fulfill its mandate under Section 9 of R.A. No. 9775, “to promulgate rules and regulations… which shall include among others, the installation of filtering software that will block access to or transmission of any form of child pornography.”

Under the Circular, all ISPs are required to install programs or software that will block access or filter websites that carry child pornography materials. They shall submit at least three (3) programs or software to the Inter-Agency Council against Child Pornography (“IACACP”) for evaluation. The IACACP is a body created under R.A. 9775 to monitor and oversee the implementation of the said law. If the IACACP does not interpose any objection within five (5) days from submission, the ISPs shall acquire any of the programs or software in the list submitted and install the same within 120 days.

The NTC shall furnish ISPs with a list of the pornographic websites provided by the IACACP for their immediate blocking. Thereafter, the ISPs must submit to the IACACP within 5 days from the end of each month, a list of all the websites that were blocked, which subscribers attempted to access. In addition, they must inform the Philippine National Police or the National Bureau of Investigation of any form of child pornography committed using their services or facilities, within 7 days from obtaining such facts and circumstances. Thus, for purposes of investigation and prosecution by the concerned authorities, all ISPs must preserve their customers’ data record particularly the time, origin and destination of access.

The provisions of the Circular may raise questions on privacy of internet usage. The Circular, however, made it clear that it does not require an ISP to engage in the monitoring of any user, subscriber or customer or the content of any communication of any person.

On the part of the ISPs, total cooperation is expected because the Circular protects them from any liability arising from their blocking or filtering of the identified pornographic websites.

Memorandum Circular No. 01-01-2014 is a long-awaited measure to help address the problem of cyber child pornography in the Philippines. Let’s just hope that the NTC, the NBI and the police will seriously implement the provisions of the Circular to significantly decrease if not totally eliminate the cases of online child pornography in the country.

(Imelda Manguiat and Catherine D. De la Rosa co-authored this post.)

[1]  Marcelo, Elizabeth. PHL among top producers of child pornography, international task force says. GMA News, January 17, 2014, http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/344345/news/nation/phl-among-top-producers-of-child-pornography-international-task-force-says