Friday, July 17, 2009

On Anti Child Pornography Bill

I-Café Pilipinas is a national network that is primarily composed of the different internet café owners, operators and internet café associations around the country. Its primary purpose is to represent their interest on issues on a national level that would gravely affect the effective operations of the different internet cafes in the country.

Let it not be construed that I-Café Pilipinas does not support the passage of the “Anti-Child Pornography Bill” that is presently heard in the House of Representatives. From the first time that we have heard of such an initiative we have fully supported it and would like to see its passage as a national law in order to provide added protection for our children.

After a thorough reading of both the Senate and House version of the bill, it seems to us that this proposed national law is centered upon the program of MANDATORY INSTALLATION OF BLOCKING SOFTWARE. In the Senate version centered upon the mandatory installation of blocking software by the internet services providers but the one in the House of Representatives went on further. Not only will the internet service providers be have to install these blocking software but also internet cafes, schools and private business establishments ( I am now wondering why is it that government agencies are not included in the list? ). There are no other provisions for support programs that should be in place in order to fight child pornography in the Philippines. Both of these bills have centered upon the use of blocking software to fight child pornography in the country.

This MANDATORY INSTALLATION OF BLOCKING SOFTWARE provision raises some concern primarily due to the following issues:

1. It would just provide an atmosphere of compliancy on the part of those in government by relying so much on the performance of this blocking software to get rid of child pornography or access to pornography by children. Studies done and actual experiences of people who have used this software would contend their effectiveness in blocking pornographic content. There were times in which legitimate queries were blocked due to its proximity with pornographic terms.

2. Mandatory installation of blocking software taunt amounts to Censorship for it would not only block pornographic materials but could be used as a tool by people in government to block other content in the internet that they deemed as offensive.

3. Enabling such provision would be subject to abuse by government regulators. Time and time again it has been proven that some government officials use the law for their personal gains. What would prevent them from imposing expensive blocking software to be used by internet cafes, schools and business establishments?

4. There is also a question of cost and maintenance of software. What would prevent the internet service providers and other parties to distribute the cost of this blocking software to their customers?


a. Our law makers should consider this provision of Mandatory Installation of Blocking software since its effectiveness in combating child pornography and access to pornography is highly questionable and it is open to abuses.

b. Using technology as a way to solve the problems that it has created is just an easy way out but it does not necessarily solve the problem. The problem with child pornography and pornography itself involves a human solution. One must not only take into consideration the medium or technical aspects of the problem but the human aspects as well.

The truth is that even with the presence of blocking software it would not fully deter the problem that pornography brings. Our children would still be very vulnerable to online threats that technology brings since they lack the necessary information in letting them decide for themselves what is good or bad for them. The blocking software would only shield them from the problem but would not solve the problem itself. We are comparing our children to a horse that needs fly masks to cover their eyes so that they could just have a limited field of vision.

We truly believe that the children of today are different for they have in their hands the power of technology to access vast amounts of information that is incomparable to any point of history. It is the responsibility of parents, teachers, government officials and IT practitioners to empower them so that they could make the right choices on to how access the information that they need properly and how to process them. Instead of finding ways in which we would censure information to them let us find ways in which they would be able to understand the information that they have access to.

The center piece of this legislation should be more on the empowerment of the child and the other stakeholders like their parents through education. They must be made to realize the importance and the responsibility that they have in using technology. Since we in today’s world could not live without technology then it would only be proper for government to take the initiative to empower its people by including Netiquette as part of the regular school curriculum in the elementary and secondary education. If sex education has been a part of the school curriculum for years, I really don’t see any reason why a national standard for computer related education could be put in place by our government officials.

c. Given the importance and the problems brought about by the advances in internet technology, a national agency must be created that would handle the creation of policies and standards with regards to information communication technologically related matters.

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