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Home » , » Philippine Cybercrime Law: 'FB Likes' and 'Re-Tweets' can get you Imprisoned

Philippine Cybercrime Law: 'FB Likes' and 'Re-Tweets' can get you Imprisoned

Written By Jane Miranda on Monday, October 1, 2012 | Monday, October 01, 2012

The Philippine Government has just passed a bill that effectively ends the Freedom of Expression in the Philippines. In August and September of this year, the Philippine President signed two laws that “recognize the role of information and communications technology in nation-building and social and economic development.” These laws are:

RA 10173 or the Data Privacy Act (signed August 15, 2012),
RA 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act (signed September 12, 2012).

The Data Privacy Act and CyberCrime Prevention Act are meant to protect and secure the computer system and data-base of the government and private sectors. These laws are instruments to protect political and corporate agenda. Part of that agenda is to make the Philippines an attractive investment destination for corporations seeking to take advantage of the cheaper rates of Filipino online workers. As netizens and freelancers, we are effectively forbidden from intervening in such an exploitative situation.

Both laws position netizens as threats to the cyber security requirements of the government and private sector. This is what is insidious about these two laws. Rather than laws that would enhance responsible citizenship through the free-flow of information, these two laws are poised to curb it. There is no provision in either the Data Privacy Act or the Cybercrime Prevention Act that pertains to netizens’ cyber security. If this is the case, then we are absolutely prepared to take it as our own ‘due cause.’

The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is the most notorious act ever witnessed in the cyber-history of the Philippines, and the language of the bill is cunningly designed to make you think it only applies to individuals who are deep in cyber-technology and doesn't apply to everyone, but some part of the bill basically says it can imprison anyone who commits libel either by written messages, comments, blogs, or posts in sites such as Facebook, Twitter, or any other comment-spaces of other social media in the Internet.

When a Facebook or Twitter user posts his or her views, comments, replies or blogs, his or her intention is clearly for other users to read them. When another user disseminates them or encourages them by sharing or re-tweeting ar even liking, he or she actively second and encourage, forward, assist or support in the achievement of the purpose of the original writer. Simply put, the sharer or retweeter abet the activities and the objective of the original writer. This may start a chain reaction. Others may show their support by merely clicking "like" or they may forward it by further sharing and retweeting.

In the context of the specific provisions of the Cybercrime Law, therefore, sharers and retweeters, or even just "likers", are abettors regardless of intent. The moment he or she disseminates, he or she abets. A crime has been committed. The defense of good faith, lack of intention to injure and ignorance of the law become totally irrelevant.

Are we going to see a lot of these kind of messages in our FB account in the future?

The stated aim of the cybercrime law is to fight online pornography, hacking, identity theft and spamming in the conservative Catholic nation amid police complaints they lack the legal tools to stamp out Internet crime. However it also includes a blanket provision that puts the country's criminal libel law into force in cyberspace, except that the penalties for Internet defamation are much tougher compared with old media. Anybody using popular social networks or who publishes online is now at risk of a long prison term should a reader -- including government officials -- bring a libel charge.

It also allows authorities to collect data from personal user accounts on social media and listen in on voice/video applications, such as Skype, without a warrant.

New technologies give us new opportunities to connect with a lot of people not only in this country but all over the world. They can also provide us with a medium through which our political, public and even private views can have an immediate and direct impact on individuals, communities and even countries. It is just so disappointing that our government, in adopting our 80-year-old antiquated libel laws to the Cybercrime Law, again seems to have retarded our march with the rest of the world with respect to giving full force to the people's freedom of expression.

We ask for a revision of the said bill for the betterment of the Filipino denizens.

Protect our Right to Freedom of Expression!

credits to Jr Garraton/Raymond Dimayuga

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