Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Way to Failure: Cybercrime Prevention Act

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A bit too late to talk about the Cybercrime Prevention act, but let’s get to it. A couple of posts ago, I wrote about what the Pinoy blogger’s role in the Internet of 2012 was / is. Last week, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 was turned into law. For those who aren’t aware, this law possesses several intrinsic positive traits, including the penalization of fraud, cybersquatting, child pornography, and other ways of trafficking illegal substances online. However, this law also criminalizes libel.

What the law has to say on libel:

(4) Libel. The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.

Ideally, this law is good. It keeps you from bearing false witness, among the other things. The BPO industry also hails the data protection aspect of it as promising, and since that sector provides for a huge percentage of the metro’s money, that’s a good thing! But there’s been a lot said about the libel clause of this law, and for good reason: it doesn’t make any sense.

There are plenty of ways an individual can commit libel on the Internet. Let’s use this as an example: if you were rushed to X hospital for treatment, and the emergency room takes hours to get your bloodwork done, you have every right to say that X hospital’s ER is utter crap. You wouldn’t be wrong about it in any way whatsoever, and, if in an adrenaline rush of anger you posted on Twitter or Facebook your uncensored thoughts about X hospital’s ER staff, then you are given every moral and legal right to do so.


But then comes this clause. If the hospital’s management chances upon your post online, and decides that it doesn’t like your post, it could always use this libel clause to bring you to court over your comment. Of course, in a perfect world, we’d be living in a society where the big guy doesn’t bully the little guy just because the little guy spoke out, but playground politics has proven to be a dominant thing, and the biggest bully wins.

That’s what this law is all about. The senator who filed this libel clause has shown us that he can’t take remarks made against him (which is ironic, since he made a career out of acting as an alpha male who ridiculed the littler individuals in his cadre). The entire Philippine Congress has shown just how shortsighted it could be for passing the law without further scrutiny of the libel clause. And our beloved president, child of two of the country’s most celebrated icons of democracy and free speech, has stumbled along his road to the straight and narrow.

Of course, we can’t blame him (right?). There’re plenty of road bumps along that road. But the sad thing is that for all the gains we had this year, the rejection of the FOI bill, and now, the libel clause of the Cybercrime Prevention Act, makes the Philippine Internet a much less happier place to live in.

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