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Global alliances, policy breakthrough mark PLDT, Smart’s child protection campaign

As digital connectivity remained vital to the daily life of Filipino children this 2021, PLDT Inc. (PLDT) and its wireless arm Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) continued to champion policies and strategic partnerships that promote children’s rights and online protection.

“Children may not be our direct customers, but they do make up a significant and active chunk of our end-users, especially as their digital exposure increased with remote learning and mobile gaming during the pandemic,” said Cathy Yap-Yang, FVP and group head for Corporate Communications, PLDT. “While our business operations and enabling services remain critical to the ecosystem in which children are growing up, we remain committed to ensuring their safety and well-being, both online and offline.”

Carrying on with their pioneering Child Safeguarding policies, PLDT and Smart strengthened their partnership with Unicef to keep abreast of business policies and practices that mitigate risks and create a positive impact for children. In 2021, the two telcos led global industry peers in piloting Unicef’s updated Mobile Operators Child Rights Impact Self-Assessment tool, as well as implemented relevant child safety enhancements in their supply chain, employee learning and development, and community relations programs, among others.

PLDT, Smart ramp up fight vs online sexual exploitation of children
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Externally, PLDT and Smart co-championed the enhancement of legislation to curtail online sexual abuse and exploitation of children (OSAEC). They actively contributed to technical working group discussions geared toward amending Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-child Pornography Law of 2009 and addressing corresponding gaps in its current implementation.

While driving these policy enhancements, PLDT and Smart also forged partnerships with UK-based Internet Watch Foundation and the Canadian Centre for Child Protection to further boost the capacity of their in-house Child Protection Platform solution to detect, filter, and block access to OSAEC. As of the end of November 2021, they reported an accumulation of over 122,000 blocked URLs linked to OSAEC.

To promote safer spaces and combat OSAEC in the grassroots, PLDT and Smart have linked up with child protection advocates Kids for Kids PH, the SaferKidsPH consortium, and Football for Humanity in mobilizing technology, education, and community empowerment interventions that prevent and respond to OSAEC.

PLDT and Smart have also maintained consultative collaborations with the International Justice Mission and the Department of Justice Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking to help augment law enforcement and reporting measures against OSAEC.