Filipinos are known for being one of the most highly-active social networking people around the globe but can you imagine if you’ll be punished for just a Facebook “Like” or “Share”? The Cybercrime Prevention Act which was recently signed by President Aquino received massive roars of complaints from social media savvy Pinoys regarding how “unfair” the law is.
The Cybercrime law covers the common online activities and some bad ones like spamming, hacking and even identity theft. The most intriguing part of the Cybercrime Prevention Act, is actually the online libel which was proposed by Senator Tito Sotto. The underwhelming provisions in the law caused havoc in government websites because as of the time of writing, there were already a lot of hacked government sites in which the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and the Food Development Center sites were the latest victims.
The reason why these sites were hacked is because they are in protest of the law. Senator Teofisto Guingona III, one of the lawmakers who voted against the approval of the bill said “If you click ‘like,’ you can be sued, and if you share, you can also be sued” and if that’s the case, then “Even Mark Zuckerberg can be charged with cyber-libel”. Of course, the law is not limited to Facebook but other websites are included as well.
He also said that the provision were so broad and vague thus deciding which side is guilty is not clear. If found guilty, then be ready to spend 12 years in prison.
“Who is liable? It isn’t clear. The one who made the original post? The ones who share? The ones who tweet? Even you, if you post a simple, ‘hehehe,’ right? Does that mean you agree?” Guingona said.
Several petitions to declare the law as unconstitutional were already submitted to the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the oppositions and reactions of Filipinos were continuously published around the web and I honestly think they won’t stop anytime soon until this law gets amended. And guess what, even the Human Rights Watch expressed their alarm by their own statement saying that “it seriously threatens freedom of expression”.
“Allegedly libelous speech, online or offline, should be handled as a private civil matter, not a crime,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
The government said that they are very much welcome to protests against the law but it should be done in the proper forum. Out of all the senators who signed the law, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero admirably admitted the mistake in one of the provisions in the Cybercrime law. The pressure is on the government to make the necessary changes on the law but it seems like it will not be done too soon. Well, we’ll just have to wait until then.