Tuesday, April 11, 2023

PLDT, Smart broaden support for safer online spaces, from cybersecurity to piracy

After blocking scammers and predators, the Philippines’ leading integrated telco network PLDT Inc. (PLDT) and its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) are now ready to support measures to curb piracy in the country 

In a recent anti-piracy symposium organized by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL), GMA Network, and the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), PLDT and Smart's Chief Information Security Officer Angel T. Redoble said that the Group's site blocking capabilities can be easily extended to also support initiatives that will prevent the spread of bootleg copies of copyrighted materials.

"When it comes to site blocking, we have already been doing that for scamming websites, phishing websites, and child sexual abuse and exploitation-related materials (CSAEM). We can block on the domain level, and we are also capable of blocking on the content level," Redoble explained, adding that PLDT has blocked more than one billion attempts to access CSAEM since the initiative began two years ago.


"This anti-piracy campaign won't be different. You can just send the site that you want us to block. If it's a site focused mainly on piracy, then we can block the whole domain," said Redoble. "However, when there's content that violates anti-piracy regulations uploaded on a legitimate site, we cannot block the entire site, because we can be accused of denial of service, or preventing legitimate users from accessing a legitimate site. In cases like this, we can still block on the content level."


Citing figures from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, IPOPHL Director General Rowel Barba said that Philippine internet users registered more than 564 million visits to music piracy sites between 2020 and 2021. Meanwhile, Media Partners Asia CEO Vivek Couto estimated that pervasive online video piracy in the Philippines has grown to 20 million users in 2022 with a revenue leakage of US$781 million.


Barba lauded Internet Service Providers (ISPs) for working with IPOPHL to implement voluntary site-blocking measures that will target pirate websites and protect the intellectual property (IP) rights of stakeholders against piracy. He added that to expedite this process, IPOPHL will hopefully implement a voluntary site blocking and notice and take down mechanism within the year.


“We will soon issue the Rules and Regulations on the site-blocking and takedown procedures, which will detail an expedited process on blocking by ISPs of pirate websites,” Barba said. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by IPOPHL and the ISPs will follow the publication of the rules to implement this process.


Redoble emphasized the importance of industry alliances in curbing piracy, adding that PLDT's partnerships with groups like Internet Watch Foundation and Project Arachnid of Canada have been crucial in gathering CSAEM links for blocking.


"It is very important to get information from a legitimate source, identifying these pirated materials. That way, PLDT, and Smart will no longer have to validate or verify, because that will only lengthen the process," said Redoble. "If it's going to take months or years for a decision to be reached, whether this site is into anti-piracy, or this content is violating an anti-piracy regulation, I think that will be too late."


Redoble also advocates sustainable and proactive means of making cyberspace safe and secure for all. "Even with our current practice, we still want to do something more proactive. Because blocking is reactive, it's not sustainable. After blocking, it is likely that cybercriminals will just move to another site. There has to be a sustainable way of doing it."


Redoble said that the Group is currently testing a capability called the Global Chain of Trust (GCT), which aims to create a cleaner, safer, and more resilient digital ecosystem. "We purposefully created this against phishing, scamming, and CSAEM. Now, it can also be applied to piracy websites."


PLDT and Smart’s collaborative approach against cybersecurity threats are aligned with the Group's initiatives to protect customers from cyber harm and to keep children safe online.


These also underscore PLDT and Smart’s commitment to UN SDG #16 on promoting just, peaceful, and inclusive societies including the end to abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and all forms of violence against and torture of children.

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