The New Philippine Cybercrime Law And Responsible Use Of The Internet
RA No. 10175 Or The Anti-Cybercrime Law of the Philippines
This law was recently passed and implemented in an attempt to curtail the ever increasing incidents of crimes and bullying committed online.
Many acknowledge the need for such law because we are all witness to the fact that the Internet is fast becoming a favourite medium of unscrupulous characters to prey on unsuspecting users.
The Anti-Cybercrime Law is passed to attempt to put a stop to crimes committed online including but not limited to illegal access to a computer and data within, identity theft, computer-related forgery, child pornography, unsolicited commercial communications, cyber-squatting and the most controversial provision, libel.
Cyber Libel And What It Entails
Reason This Provision Is Too Controversial
By definition, cyber libel means defamation committed through the Internet via any of its facets such as forums, email, chat rooms, social media network, blogs, personal websites and through published articles.
Defamation means another person has publicly spread false and damaging information or statement about an individual that can harm this individual's reputation.
Cyber libel, since it is committed online, raises legal issues including that of rights to expression, speech and free press. These are among the reasons why many social media users, bloggers, journalists, and nearly everyone who accesses the Internet regularly and uses it to some extent to express and share their opinions are opposed to the libel provision of the Anti-Cybercrime Law.
Furthermore, the provision on libel of this new law allows for anyone accused to be tried for the same offense under the Revised Penal Code. Constitutionally, no Filipino should be tried for the same offense twice.
Another thing that most people fear is the great chance that this law will be abused by those in power. Defamation or spreading malicious statements is very open to interpretation. Thus the libel provision can be manipulated to put a stop to anyone raising an issue that the public needs to know.
Several petitions were filed by different groups questioning the constitutionality of some of the sections of the Anti-Cybercrime Law, namely sections 4, 5 and 6 before the law was officially implemented on the 3rd of October. Petitioners have requested for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to prevent the law from being implemented while the Supreme Court (SC) review the questionable provisions.
However, the SC refused to defer said law or issue a TRO, thus the Anti-Cybercrime Law is officially in effect.
What Does This Mean For Filipinos?
There are valid reasons to protest against some part of the new law against cybercrime and even seasoned experts of Philippine Laws admit there are indeed objectionable portions.
There are now moves promised by some lawmakers including an amendatory law that will repeal the objectionable provision. If this amendatory law is passed, the criminal liability on anyone slapped with cyber libel will be removed and replaced only with a civil liability. This means the jail penalty will be scrapped. However, it will take a long time before this amendatory bill will be passed. And even then, a civil liability will still be a heavy burden.
In the meantime, what could Filipino Netizens expect?
The outrage of many online users come from mostly misconceptions. Right now, social media users fear that commenting, liking or sharing a critic or strong statement against a person of public or private position will put them behind bars.
However, that will not be the case. Although not stipulated on the libel provision, it being vague and incomplete, the expression of one's opinion is still recognized by the Law as one's legal right. This means that merely re-tweeting, liking, or sharing a post cannot be deemed libelous. A person who re-tweets, likes or shares is not the actual author therefore not considered liable. If however it's proven that the person who shared the post aided or abetted the libelous act, then he will be charged with conspiracy to a cybercrime. As you see, it's all very complicated because conspiracy in itself is difficult to prove.
Does the libel provision step on one's right to freedom of speech?
It does not, and it could not. As long as every Filipino's constitutional rights is recognized, there is no law that can ever stop you from expressing your opinions freely. But it's important to take note that freedom of speech does not cover slanderous or obviously derogatory statement or remarks communicated through any media.
Responsible Use Of The Internet
Like most other countries in the world, the average Filipino now can have access to the Internet. This ubiquitous media has given many people a kind of freedom that is impossible to enjoy in real life. Because of this very freedom to do many things online that one can't and won't normally do offline, a lot of us Netizens have become too bold in posting or publishing statements on the net.
We have become so used in seeing, posting and sharing strong statements and criticisms online that sometimes we fail to distinguish those that are constructive from those that are abusive. And now, the implementation of the Anti-Cybercrime Law has rocked the cyberworld of Filipinos.
Our fear that the freedom we enjoy online will be limited by this law has pushed us to protest against it. But in light of the passing of this new law, we should all reconsider the way we use our online presence.
Do we share information responsibly?
Many of the supposedly true information online are actually lies but they spread like wildfire because most of the time, we simply share without verifying. Take for example the case of a student who was falsely accused of intentionally spreading HIV/AIDS. Thousands of people on Facebook shared the false information and it even spread globally, resulting to an unbearable deluge of hate messages to the unfortunate guy. It's just lucky that this student has a strong character and he decided to use this experience to educate people about cyber-bullying and the rights of people with HIV/AIDS.
Do we think before we click?
Cyber-bullying is very easy to commit and it's also very easy for you to become a victim, therefore you should think first before posting anything online. Recently, a girl from the lower regions of the Philippines posted derogatory comments about highlanders. This sparked outrage from the offended group of people which resulted in the girl receiving hateful and equally, if not more, derogatory messages on her Facebook account.
Do we actively participate in curtailing inappropriate posts online?
When we see inappropriate post or images (sexually explicit, questionable, false or wrong information) being shared online, do we report them or do anything to make sure those do not reach the younger demographic?
Even with new laws passed in an attempt to control the people's use of the Internet, it is still a fact that laws will be hard put in keeping up with this media and the growing number of people who use it.
There may be some problems with the Cybercrime Law and as we push for its amendment, let us not forget that we too have responsibilities as Internet users. The internet is a very useful tool to stay in touch with loved ones who are far away, to stay updated with things that are going on in various parts of the country and the world, to exercise our rights to freedom of speech, to keep watch and ensure that check and balance exists in the different branches of our government. So let us be responsible Internet users and not abuse our cyber freedom.
Do you think the Anti-Cybercrime Law will be amended?