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Anti-Cybercrime Group probe hits snag after YouTube channel goes viral

The Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (PNP-ACG) on Friday said efforts to go after the individuals behind a YouTube channel targeting women and minors were hampered when it went viral.

In Jonathan Andal’s report on “24 Oras,” the PNP-ACG disclosed it has been engaging and surveilling the activities of YouTube channel “Usapang Diskarte” since March.

YouTube and Meta closed down the channel along with its affiliate Facebook page and group on Thursday for violating their community standards and following complaints by netizens.

“It takes time. Kasi kailangan kumagat siya sa bait eh. You have to understand na mayroong kailangang i-undercover... Kaya lang naging viral na siya. That's what's hard. Syempre hindi na namin mae-engage 'yun dahil alam na niya na out in the open na mino-monitor na siya,”  Police Lieutenant Michelle Sabino, PNP-ACG spokesperson, said.

(It takes time. He needs to bite the bait first. You have to understand that we need to do undercover…but it suddenly went viral. That’s what’s hard. We can no longer engage it because it is now out in the open we’re monitoring the channel.)

Authorities have yet to identify the owner of the channel but said they will request YouTube to disclose the identity of the people behind the channel to aid the investigation. Once named, the suspects may be charged with violation of Republic Act 9775 or the “Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.”

GMA reached out to YouTube for its statement on the police's request.

Meta earlier denounced the activities in the channel saying it has “no place” on their platforms.

“There is no place on our apps for child sexual exploitation and we have removed the Group and Page for violating our Community Standards,” Facebook’s parent company said in a statement.

“We use a mix of proactive detection technology, human review and reports from our community to find and remove this content as quickly as possible. We also work with law enforcement in situations where there is an immediate risk of harm,” it added.

For her part, Senator Risa Hontiveros urged President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to sign into law a bill that will protect children against online sexual abuse and exploitation stressing the incident showed the country’s need for such legislation.

“Hinihimok ko ang Palasyo napirmahan na ang Anti-Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Law para tuluyan nang matuldukan ang mga krimen sa Facebook, YouTube at iba pang social media sites,” said Hontiveros.

(I am urging the Palace to sign the Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children Law to finally put an end to crimes perpetuated on Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites.)—Sundy Locus/LDF, GMA News