CyberMax

How to Ship the Cybercrime Law Off to Siberia

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Enraged netizens call it “e-Martial Law,” while so-called “hactivists” have resorted to taking down government websites to register their protest.

Originally intended to curb the rise of cybersex dens and Internet pornography, RA10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, to hear netizens rage against it, quickly morphed into a means of crashing into an individual’s right to privacy and a blow to freedom of speech.

It didn’t help that unlike the controversial RH bill that has languished in limbo for 15 years, the Cybercrime bill sailed smoothly to become a law despite some alarming clauses, including one that criminalized libel on the Net.

The law gave the Justice Department the power to shut down websites found to be guilty of libel without the benefit of a fair trial or deliberation.

Doesn’t that make the law unconstitutional, concerned citizens asked. Then why was it passed and approved so quickly?

This being a few months before the next national election, several senators and Congress representatives quickly dissociated themselves from the unpopular law, while the Justice department assured the public posthaste that there was nothing to fear, and that the law had “good intentions.”

Still, the mere inclusion of libel as a criminal act in the law means that people charged with libel could do serious jail time and pay a hefty fine.  To make matters worse, ambiguities in the law makes anyone who comments on, Likes or retweets statements deemed libelous equally guilty as well.

The case of several nurses fired from a Taguig public hospital for “liking” the comment of a disgruntled doctor in the hospital is illustrative.

Indeed, international journalists who’ve gotten wind of the law have deemed it archaic and worse than SOPA, an Internet law proposed in the States that met with derision from the public as well as Internet giants Mark Zuckerberg and Eric Schmidt.

With several groups filing petitions that questioned this law, the Supreme Court felt constrained to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against it, until further deliberations to determine its constitutionality.   The small victory allowed for some democratic space that netizens have maximized by holding various fora to educate the public on the repercussions of the law.

Make sure to add your voice to the clamor before the TRO expires in 120 days (less than a hundred days left by the time this column sees print).  Oral arguments on the law will be held on January 15, 2013. Until then, make sure to follow @inquirerdotnet on updates about the law, and participate in the ongoing discussion on Twitter by adding the hashtag #notocybercrimelaw in your tweets.

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