Surge in ‘revenge porn’ monitored in PH

Surge in ‘revenge porn’ monitored in PH

By Tracy Cabrera

UNKNOWN TO many, there has been a surge in reports of what is termed ‘revenge porn’ but for most Filipinos they relegate this issue as merely a part of the trend in technology development. This trend is exacerbated by the lockdowns and the imposition of quarantine protocols all aimed at containing the spread of the ongoing coronavirus global pandemic.

According to a privately-funded helpline, there has been a marked increase in reports of revenge porn, approximately a 22 percent rise from last year. As cases have remained high despite coronavirus restrictions easing, those that run the service fear this is “the new normal.” The Oxford Dictionaries defines revenge porn as revealing or sexually explicit images or videos of a person posted on the Internet, typically by a former sexual partner, without the consent of the subject and in order to cause them distress or embarrassment.

Pornography is illegal. According to Republic Act No. 7610, pornography are illegal doctrines, publications, shows, and other similar material or portrayals that advocate human immorality, obscenity, and indecency. Philippine legislation penalizes participation in these unlawful activities, which extend punishment to those that harbor abuse, exploitation, prostitution, and discrimination of children. The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, a.k.a. Republic Act No. 10175, is a law addressing legal issues concerning online interactions and the internet. Among the cybercrime offenses included in the bill are cybersquatting, cybersex, child pornography, identity theft, illegal access to data and libel.

Sharing pornography with or without consent is also illegal in the Philippines. But we are not even fully equipped to fight cybercrime and cyber attacks, not because of our country’s size. Israel, second only to the United States in cyber security, has proven how a small country can successfully protect its citizens. The Philippines has a lot to learn from Israel and must act quickly to secure critical ‘info-structure’, government and military networks, business and supply chains, and individuals and internet users.

According to Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) assistant secretary for cyber security and enabling technologies Allan Cabanlong, the Philippines is only in the reactive and manual phase and the tools-based stage of cyber security, based on the cybersecurity maturity model (CMM) of the US Department of Defense. This means the Philippines is still focused on eliminating cyber threats as they happen, rather than finding their causes and preventing them from happening, and because our cyber maturity level is that low, we foster tools dependence, rather than cause-finding measures and prevention.

Cabanlong also said that the Philippines has a significant lack of local cyber security experts, compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors. With only 84 certified information security systems professionals — half of whom work overseas — this number is low compared to Indonesia’s 107, Thailand’s 189, Malaysia’s 275, and Singapore’s 1,000. The lack of the country’s prioritization to cyber security is also evident in the small investment that PH pours on it. Recent research by a domestic violence charity group found that one in seven young women has received threats that intimate photos will be shared without their consent.

There have been more cases of non-consensual pornography reported to the dedicated helpline so far this year than in all of 2019. Around two-thirds of cases reported to the helpline involve women. Research found that more than 60 percent of survivors living with their abuser reported that the abuse they experienced got worse during the pandemic. Disclosing private sexual images— or threatening to do so — is a common form of abuse, and is particularly harming young women. Image-based forms of abuse. such as revenge porn, must be taken just as seriously as abuse in ‘real life’.

There has been an increase of cases, according to reports, during lockdown as more and more people are being forced to build relationships online. Studies also show that the problem has always been there, it’s just that the lockdown accentuated it more, and has become a quarter for predatory sexual exploitation. (IA/DS)

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