PLDT and its wireless arm Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) are broadening their engagement with stakeholders, ramping up their global fight against online child abuse and human trafficking. The two companies strengthened their support to the Department of Justice in collaborating and providing the government agency timely information in tracking perpetrators at the community level.
At the recent anti-human trafficking conference organized by Plan International Philippines called “Building Communities, Ending Trafficking: A National Learning Conference”, PLDT and Smart laid out digital innovations that will help the government clamp down on human trafficking and online sexual abuse and exploitation of children or OSAEC.
“Human trafficking is an allied problem of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children or OSAEC. PLDT and Smart, as telco service providers, have taken the lead in addressing these problems. We’ve progressively blocked a record number of sites harmful to children. We are also deepening alliances with UNICEF, the Internet Watch Foundation and the International Justice Mission,” said Catherine Yap-Yang, First Vice President and Group Corporate Communications Head at PLDT and Smart.
During the breakout session, Yap-Yang showcased Smart’s Infocast system to municipal and barangay officials, together with representatives from the different offices of the DOJ and the Department of Education, as a tool to combat human trafficking and online child abuse.
“As agents of change in the private sector, we’re here to help the government strengthen its efforts, through our Infocast SMS broadcast system. Smart Infocast has already reached 1.3 million Filipinos in almost 800 communities nationwide, and we’re keen on utilizing this tool to help stamp out online child abuse,” noted Yap-Yang.
Smart Infocast is a web-based text-broadcasting solution powered by Smart. Launched in 2015, it has enabled inter-agency task force groups and local government units to send out text updates to officials and employees, health workers, and barangay and police authorities. This feature helps boost information dissemination about key issues. The service also allows registered subscribers to send reports or feedback, helping officials or authorities engage with their community members. This capability has proven useful for local authorities in responding to criminal activities in their areas.
In the last five quarters, Smart Infocast has been able to broadcast over 13 million official advisories, reminders, and messages to schools, colleges, and universities; local government units (LGUs); cooperatives; and government agencies in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Justice Assistant Secretary-in-Charge of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) Nicholas Felix Ty recognized that human trafficking is a multi-sectoral concern that needs a multi-sectoral approach utilizing partnerships with non-government organizations and private companies. The DOJ official also lauded PLDT and Smart for expanding their efforts against OSAEC.
“I was very pleased to hear from PLDT and Smart, who not only updated us on their latest efforts to fulfill their obligations under law to combat OSAEC, but also shared their campaigns and tools to help the government’s anti-human trafficking efforts,” Ty said. “We are more than glad to take you up on the offer to work with the Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (DOJ-IACAT). We hope our offices can coordinate to explore how we can cooperate in this fight against trafficking.”
PLDT and Smart have been scaling up the fight against OSAEC. The two companies recently blocked access to more than 8,000 sites that host sexually explicit materials featuring children. The ramp up in the number of sites blocked can be attributed to their recent membership into the UK-based Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), the first among Filipino companies. The membership into the IWF also enabled PLDT and Smart to block child sexual abuse materials or CSAM at the content level, the only telco firms in the Philippines to do so.
On top of employing technology solutions, PLDT and Smart have also been strengthening their own corporate policies and embedding child protection in their broader sustainability agenda. As a result of their partnership with UNICEF, the companies have since rolled out their own Child Safeguarding Policies and piloted the updated Mobile Operators Child Rights Impact Assessment (MO-CRIA) tool, further driving the thrust to manage business impact on children and aligning with the world’s best practices for child protection.
PLDT and Smart are also collaborating with the International Justice Mission (IJM) in efforts to aid law enforcement in combating OSAEC in the Philippines. IJM has recently lauded PLDT and Smart for their move to join the global coalition of the IWF.
To educate and empower communities towards digital literacy, safety and welfare, PLDT and Smart are also rolling out homegrown programs like InfoTeach, CyberSmart and Better Today. The companies are also supporting the SaferKidsPH program that is geared towards equipping and capacitating communities in the fight against OSAEC.
These initiatives underscore PLDT and Smart’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UNSDG) #11 of making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, as well as the UNSDG #16 that promotes just, peaceful and inclusive societies including the end to abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.