It’s a welcome development that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has signed into law R.A. 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 last November 17, 2009. Under this new law, child pornography is now referred to as:
xxx “any public or private representation, by whatever means, of a child engaged in real or simulated explicit sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes.” xxx
The form of child pornography has been expanded from the traditional forms like videos or photos of real children but also digitally-created images and it also includes audio recordings or representations of a child engaged in explicit sexual activity.
The law was created in the context of today’s inter-connected world of computers, the Internet and mobile phones because the mere possession of child pornography is now illegal and would land you in jail.
Aside from creating the Inter-Agency Council against Child Pornography, the new law somehow deputizes Internet Service Providers or ISPs by giving them additional duties under Section 5 of the Act:
SEC. 5. Duties of an Internet Service Provider (ISP). – An ISP shall:
(a) Prevent access or transmittal of child pornography materials by any person and shall install a blocking system to prevent access to such materials;
(b) Within seven (7) days, report the presence thereof, as well as the particulars of the person maintaining, hosting, distributing or in any manner contributing to the Internet address, to the proper authorities; and
(c) Preserve such evidence for purposes of investigation and prosecution by relevant authorities.
An ISP shall, upon the request of proper authorities, furnish the particulars of users who gained or attempted to gain access to an Internet address which contains child pornography materials.
An ISP who shall knowingly, willfully and intentionally violate this provision shall be subject to the penalty provided under Section 13(e) of this Act.
Privacy and net neutrality issues
And here is where my reservations come from, ISPs are now mandated to install a blocking system to prevent access to and transmittal of child pornography materials, how would they know which data in their networks are such materials or not? It provides in effect, some filtering mechanism at the ISP level, just like what is going in China today. Imagine the threat to our freedom of access to information and to our privacies as individuals.
The government and ISPs should be transparent and allow for participatory consultations in crafting the implementing guidelines for this new law.
Also, there’s already a law that provides for special protection to children against exploitation of any kind, R.A. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act. Perhaps our lawmakers should’ve amended it instead with the provisions of R.A. 9775 to cover the context of fast production and distribution of child pornography materials via the Internet and mobile phones so prevalent today.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally in favor of this new law and I am against child pornography, but any good law becomes a bad one when the implementation becomes a way to trample upon the rights of others.