On 18 May 2021, the Philippines Senate unanimously approved a third and final reading a bill. It seeks to strengthen protections against online sexual abuse and exploitation of children.
The proposed Special Protections against Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Law was sponsored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros who chairs the committee on women.
The proposed measure will now be submitted to the House of Representatives. As of mid-September, 2021 the bill does not appear to have been considered by the House of Representatives.
If the bill is enacted, internet service providers would have new duties. They would be required to “notify the Philippine National Police or the National Bureau of Investigation within forty-eight hours from receipt of information that any form of child sexual abuse or exploitation is being committed using its server or facility.”
Meanwhile, social media companies would be obliged to “develop and adopt a set of systems and procedures for preventing, blocking, detecting, and reporting of Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children committed within their platforms.”
The proposed legislation also bans the entry of convicted sex offenders into the country. It requires authorities to create and maintain a registry of online sex offenders.
SECTION 33 of the Bill talks about Age Verification protocols.
“All online providers of adult content shall be required to adopt an anonymous age verification process before granting access to adult content. Not later than one year after the passage of this Act, the National Telecommunications Commission shall complete a policy study into age verification controls and protocols by internet intermediaries, that may be put in place in order to restrict the access of children to pornographic materials. Said rules and regulations governing the adoption of an anonymous age verification process shall be promulgated not later than eighteen months after the passage of this Act.”
A recent Google search for information on age verification in the Philippines produced interesting results. The adverts that accompanied the search results were a ‘who’s who’ of the main companies providing age verification systems. Certainly, each of them hopes and believes that age verification for pornography may become a reality in the near future. The Philippines will give the age verification industry a strong new market.