ANTIC establishes taskforce to curb rising online child abuse

Cameroon’s National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies (ANTIC) has established and trained a 20-man taskforce in cybersecurity legislation in an effort to strengthen compliance and enforcement of a Charter on Child Online Protection enacted in the country last year.

The team trained at a one-week workshop that wrapped up in Yaounde on Wednesday, June 26, 2024 will have the duty to sensitise cyberspace actors on their obligations, carry out verification and monitoring to ensure compliance, and eventually sanction as a deterrence and to uphold the integrity of the law.

Judicial and legal professionals, civil society actors, media practitioners, parents and teachers are part of the team.

Need for urgent and responsive measures

Speaking as he closed the training, the Director General of ANTIC, Prof Ebot Ebot Enaw said digital technologies hold promise for children but there are a number of dangers and risks inherent in the use of these technologies. He said there has been a record number of child online abuse in Cameroon, notably: the publication of nude pictures or video clips of children online, cyberbullying, internet-assisted kidnappings, internet addiction, exposure to harmful content and influences, and child pornography.

“This state of affairs has prompted the need for urgent and responsive measures to be taken to tackle these abuses posed by digital technologies and provide a safe cyber environment where children can tap from the full potential of these technologies for their personnel development,” Prof Enaw said.

ANTIC Director General, Prof Ebot Ebot Enaw speaking

On an institutional front, he said ANTIC is mandated to ensure the security of the Cameroonian cyberspace and promote the safe use of ICTs for the harmonious development of Cameroon.

“As such, with regard to Child Online Protection, ANTIC has over the years championed awareness raising campaigns among children and youth on risks and responsibilities they may encounter when using the Internet. The awareness raising has been carried out via the drafting and distribution of Internet Safety Guides during proximity campaigns in schools, radio programs and the broadcast of SMS messages,” Prof Enaw explained.

“On a legislative standpoint, Cameroon now disposes a legal instrument that regulates and protects children’s online experience thanks to Law N° 2023/009 of July 25, 2023 to Institute the Charter on Child Online Protection in Cameroon. This Charter represents a comprehensive framework designed to safeguard children from online harm and to promote a safer and more secure digital environment,” he added.

Multi-stakeholder collaboration and partnership needed

The ANTIC boss believes the effectiveness of the charter rest on collective effort to enforce its provisions rigorously and consistently through building a compliance and enforcement framework for the charter.

Igxtelle Mbah-Acha Dopgima, US-based Attorney and Founder of Igxtelle Law Group, who led the training, called for multi-stakeholder collaboration and partnership as well as the sharing of best practices.

ANTIC Director General, other participants at close of training workshop in Yaounde

She dissected mechanisms that are available for enforcing the charter, including monitoring systems, reporting procedures, and sanctions for non-compliance.

“We explored the current digital landscape in Cameroon, examining both the opportunities and the risks. We learned about the latest tools and technologies available to safeguard children online, from parental control software to educational programs that teach digital literacy and responsible online behavior,” said Dopgima. “We also discussed the importance of collaboration between governmental entities, the private sector, and civil society organizations”.

The regulatory compliance expert hopes for tangible actions and outcomes that hold accountable all persons as highlighted in the law, so as to ensure the integrity, safety, dignity and protection of children online in Cameroon’s cyberspace.

“This workforce must remain vigilant, adapting to the ever-evolving digital landscape and emerging trends,” Dopgima implored.

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