Cyber Dispute (an opinion)

Somewhere in Cyberspace not too long ago, I saw a slogan “Share. Be sociable.”, but with the enactment of the Cybercrime Law, I guess it will be changed to “Beware. Be liable.”

As I read through the eight chapters having several sections of the Republic Act 10175, I have learned that the cybercrime law has become the platform of the best and the worst that people can come up with when they’re online.

The Supreme Court stopped the implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act for 120 days and has set an oral argument on January 15, 2013 to hear both parties for and against the Cyber crime law act of 2012 signed by Pnoy on September 12, 2012.

The said law aims to fight online pornography, hacking, identity theft, spamming and online libelous act among others. On the surface, it sounds perfectly well-intentioned. Sure the law has some good points. But wait! There’s a catch. This very same law that professes to protect us from the dangers of the internet also threatens to take away our freedom to express whatever we want to say, and we can’t afford to just ignore that.

For a moment, let’s assume that the law has already took effect (I don’t look forward to taste it in reality though) There are a lot of provisions in that law that makes us all potential cyber criminals. It only wants to hear nice things. It champions the dead by asking the living to shut up. The law said that “If you don’t have anything good to say, then you better say nothing at all.” How about if I write about a dead criminal who molested kids and killed journalists? Do we erase the “bad parts” of his life because we commit crime if we “Blacken the memory of the dead”?
Basically, they don’t like us to like what they don’t like. Those who play a part of encouraging the spread of libelous content shall be charged for abetting libel. That means the act of clicking the “LIKE” button on Facebook or retweeting post on twitter may be tagged as unlawful as well. Time to unlike those anti-establishment facebook pages and unfollow those fake twitter accounts spoofing persons in power. Sure it will make us more responsible for our online behavior. We are forbidden to make honest opinion though.
Cybersex is a crime. We agree that it is so -when its profit oriented venture taking advantage to minors. However, what if cybersex is done by two consenting adults? If a woman sends a picture of herself eating an ice cream in a suggestive manner to her boyfriend, will she be sent to jail if someone rats her out?
Here’s more! “Old libelous posts that are still accessible today can be charged with online libel because you could mean it by keeping it there today.” So if you’re still publishing it after the law takes effect then you’re liable for its publication today. So, those bitter posts about your ex that you put up way back in 2006? You could end up going to jail for that. (I’m taking this opportunity to ask my friends to visit me in jail if you have time or if you are not yet in jail with me.)

Violating the law such as posting defamatory comments on Faceboook could mean up to 12 years of imprisonment or a fine of at least P200, 000 – P1M. If Ninoy could have been around, he probably be among one of those protesting to what has come to be called as “Cyber Martial Law”.
They allotted P50M as proposed annual budget for the implementation of this act. They could have spent their energy, money and time on more rational and socially-relevant national issues like poverty reduction, economic stability, health, unemployment and the like.

The technological advancement particularly the internet has benefited us directly by providing access to worldwide knowledge and foster a healthier democracy brought about by broader discussions on the various issues that we confront today. I believe that there’s no need for more laws specifically for the internet. We have enough laws that can be applied to the virtual world. Stealing for instance, whether offline or online can be treated the same way. But how people behave online is not always how they behave offline. Online anonymity can make people braver to participate in discussions, and even makes them cruel somehow. I don’t want to argue that our society does not need protection from the dangers in the internet. But we should make sure that it’s not our laws that in the end restrict our basic human rights.

Once again, we see a mix of ignorance to technology and the desire to exert further control over a population. Neither has a place to good government. Being safe and behaving properly in the internet is something we should not leave for the government to perform. This is something we can do altogether. The provisions that conflicts with other aspects of good governance should be corrected soon through amendments. The calls for amendments should not be seen as a personal attack on anyone’s character or effectiveness.


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