Manila Court Orders Facebook and YouTube to Submit Information About Usapang Diskarte

IMAGE SHUTTERSTOCK

After public scrutiny of the Usapang Diskarte YouTube channel earlier this year, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and its Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) and Anti-Cybercrime Group and Women and Children Cybercrime Protection Unit (WCCPU) have all been quick to act upon the reports. They, however, have a lot of ground to cover.

The Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 24 recently granted the PNP and the units two warrants that order social media companies Facebook and YouTube to release computer data about the Usapang Diskarte social media accounts. This includes all images, private messages, subscriber information, and content from its pages. These should be used to mount a strong case against the uploaders.

The court argued that there is probable cause to believe that the accounts violated the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, specifically those under the country's child pornography laws. The PNP-ACG said that it had been surveilling the activities of Usapang Diskarte since March, as well.

"The accounts’ content shared tips on how to lure a minor to have sex with an older man. Minors are conditioned into thinking that having sex with an older man is normal," the PNP-ACG explained in a statement.

The ACG has also reportedly endorsed the cyber-warrants to the Department of Justice Office on Cybercrime for implementation.

“After we forward this, we will wait for the data to be transmitted to us. This can include thousands of images, information on the account owner as well as their subscribers, chat logs and other information," said WCCPU Chief Police Lt. Col. Irene Cena. "We expect this investigation to be heavy."

Back in July, Usapang Diskarte drew the ire of public figures, child rights advocates, and more after a certain video on its YouTube channel, which provided men tips on grooming minors, came to light.

The channel had been active since 2016, frequently offering viewers how-to's on sexual abuse and child exploitation. Other disturbing titles that the content creators uploaded include “1ST MEET IYOT NA AGAD,” “Ungol," and “Keypyas.”

At the time of the page's termination on July 14, 2022, it had more than 250,000 subscribers and roughly 1,000 videos' worth of malicious content. It "connected to a group of sexual predators who equates ‘macho’ with being abusive," according to the PNP.

The PNP has also called on the public to report any information regarding Usapang Diskarte and its moderators to them.

ALSO READ:

Study Says More Cases of Violence Against Children at Home Have Been Reported During Pandemic

How Usapang Diskarte Empowered a Network of Filipino Sexual Predators

How Does YouTube and Facebook Deal With These Cases?

Photo by SHUTTERSTOCK.

The PNP has a tough task ahead of it though. Private Facebook groups online that have become hubs for children exploitation are said to exist, as well. Those who are behind Usapang Diskarte are in hiding, too. Meanwhile, Facebook and YouTube have had troube dealing with these issues.

They have, at the very least, taken necessary steps to mitigate these concerns. In 2020, Facebook also joined Google, Microsoft, and other various tech companies for Project Protect. This 15-year program expanded the social media giants' investment in technology coalition to protect children online. It is done in collaboration with the WePROTECT Global Alliance.

“Project Protect brings together the brightest minds from across the tech industry to tackle a grave issue that no one company can solve on its own – child exploitation and abuse," stated Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Facebook is proud to help lead this initiative that we hope will lead to real changes that keep children safe.”

Facebook also has a pop-up notice when users search for these types of content. Facebook, nevertheless, been criticized in the past for its message encryption, which critics pointed out, allowed security for both abusers and victims.

YouTube, on the other hand, has had trouble regulating harmful content. In spite of its policies, the platform has been prone to exploitation because of its agorithmic curation. This leads to sexual predators or like-minded extremists and abusers creating a network of sorts.

The company deletes channels and user comments with an automated comment classifier to identify inappropriate remarks. All we have to do is report them. Unfortunately, channels like Usapang Diskarte still persist through obscure YouTube rabbit holes and forums, particularly those that have yet to receive public outcry or widespread condemnation.

The enactment of Republic Act 11930 or the Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children (OSAEC) Law last July 30 should also help the case. It is meant to address the Philippines' online abuse epidemic. Data from the past ten years suggest that the Philippines has been one of the global leaders in cases of child sex exploitation.

"It is our fervent wish for Filipino children to safely navigate the virtual space without fear. RA 11930 symbolizes the break of dawn heralding a future where no more children are harmed, abused, and victimized through the Internet," Child Rights Network (CRN) convenor Romeo Dongeto expressed at the time of the law's passing.

About The Author
Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is the assistant section editor of Esquire Philippines.
View Other Articles From Bryle
Latest Feed
Load More Articles
Connect With Us