Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC) is the production or online publication and consumption of photos, videos, and livestreams of the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. Child protection organizations note that OSEC is rarely identified and reported as a crime because it is largely virtual. Yet, OSEC damages children’s mental, emotional, and physical welfare, with some cases livestreaming rape and physical sexual abuse.
As one of the rising issues of violence against children, the number of OSEC-related articles published by the Philippine media has equally increased. Media coverage of children and crimes against them have guidelines, but there is nothing specific for OSEC. According to Pradeep Nair’s research article Child Sexual Abuse and Media: Coverage, Representation and Advocacy, sensitive details like the identity of the child and the family get unnecessarily published or posted in the media, sensationalizing the accounts. Several criteria, such as legalities observed and terminologies of abuse, need extra care on reportage for both the mainstream and regional media.
Clearly, there is a need to define OSEC as a sexual crime against children, without stigmatizing them or reenacting their trauma in the news coverage.
To paint a baseline of how journalists fare and should perform in OSEC coverage, we needed an OSEC benchmark —which Evident researchers designed and implemented.
Data Crunching and Processing
Our researchers used Digimind, a news and social listening software, to collect 3 years’ worth of OSEC-related articles from Philippine publications. Keywords scraped through the software were OSEC-related terms based on the National Baseline Study: Violence Against Children in the Philippines.
Through representative sampling by publication, with a 95% confidence level and a 5% margin of error, researchers arrived at 330 articles on OSEC cases in the Philippines.
Making the Compliance Index
The researchers then created a Compliance Index, a formula that determined whether journalists observed accurate and ethical journalism for OSEC cases. The index comprised a battery of attributes from UNICEF and other child protection organizations which were operationalized and laymanized by Evident, ChildFund, and the Child Rights Network.
Scoring and weighting were applied to each attribute, to determine compliant and non-compliant scores. Anything above 1.5 was tagged as a compliant article, and anything below it was tagged as non-compliant. Medians were computed per publication to arrive at their organizational compliance scores. The higher the median for a publication, the more ‘compliant’ it was to the index.
The results and OSEC reportage guidelines were shared with journalists who were invited to a media training workshop for OSEC specific coverage
Throughout the campaign, the researchers and ChildFund seeded OSEC-related articles on World Youth Day and World Internet Day, so journalists can explore writing about OSEC in their publications. A number of them did so, observing the pointers from the workshop. Post workshop OSEC articles registered improved compliance scores among attendees.
Because of the intervention, child advocates Senator Risa Hontiveros and Representative Yedda Romualdez committed to enable legal mechanisms to recognize and prosecute OSEC as a distinct crime against children.
There still is much to be done, but by establishing a baseline for reportage, creating guidelines, and getting the support of journalists, we are now in a position to advocate for childrens’ rights and carry on the fight to #ShutDownOSEC.
#ShutDownOSEC Research Infographic