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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Internet Censorship is Not Needed in the Anti-Child Pornography Bill

(originally posted at

I remember way back during the 6th National Youth Parliament, the Committee on ICT which I chaired back then passed a resolution for the passage of a bill in Congress known as the National Filtering System. This system will filter content which are deemed not for public consumption. The filtering system however will only be installed in internet cafes, schools, and other public internet stations. I lobbied this to the members of the committee since I believe that private citizens should have the right to choose their content and that making the censorship encompassing will be tantamount to the constitutional right to information and to the privacy of the individual.

This piece of writing is not in anyway a position of the Philippine Internet Users Society (PIUS) but a personal opinion of mine.

First, I would like to congratulate the Congress of the Philippines for the passage of House Bill 6440 otherwise known as the Anti-Child Pornography Bill. It is indeed a landmark bill which puts the child at the helm of protection. A protection which the child deserves and was even enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United Nations.

Under HB 6440, the hiring, using, inducing or coercing of a child to perform in the production of any sexual production/child pornography; producing, directing, manufacturing or creating any form of child pornography materials; selling, offering, advertising and promoting child pornography and its materials; possessing, downloading, purchasing, reproducing or making available child pornography with the intent of selling or distributing them; publishing, posting, exhibiting, disseminating, distributing, transmitting or broadcasting child pornography and its materials; and engaging in the luring and grooming of a child are considered unlawful.

HB 6440 also imposes penalties ranging from 'aresto mayor' to 'reclusion temporal' in its maximum period as well as fines amounting to not less than P30,000 but not more than P2 million, depending on the gravity of the offense committed.

These are all very commendable and welcome provisions. The hope being that this law is indeed implemented well since the Philippines has many good laws and even the best laws in the world but the problem is it is not well implemented.

What is wrong then?

I agree with Edgar Zafra in his observation that the provision on the filtering of searches and content directed at the services of ISP's and content providers are over board. I do not think that this provision is necessary. The filtering will not only slow down the internet will also be a violation of privacy and the freedom of information.

It is enough that possession, downloading and other stuff be punished but to subject the entire internet to such a filtering is highly unwise. It is not necessary and will not contribute to make the law effective.

Can you penalize the ISP's for allowing access to child porn sites? Is this their fault? I do not think that the ISP's and content providers should be held liable for this. It is the website owner who should be punished and those that are accessing it and utilizing its content.

I highly recommend that this provision be removed in the final version of the law and save the freedom of information on the internet. What we need is not filtering the internet but the enforcement of the law effectively.

We also need to solve the root cause of child pornography which is poverty. Children and parents sometimes end up in this business because they need money. When you don't have anything to eat most of the time morality is no longer relevant for survival precedes it.

I also hope and endorse to the Philippine Internet Users Society (PIUS) to look into this case and issue and if it is indeed legitimate to clamor for the removal of the said provision.

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