Despite protest and criticisms of the Anti-Cybercrime Law in the Philippines, it went ahead without a glitch, faster than you could ever say SOPA or PIPA. At first glance, the name doesn’t sound any harm, similar to the US bills SOPA and PIPA, but if you have read the contents of the bill, things are not always as they sound. And if we have learned anything from the previous US bills, it won’t be long until it sparks a massive global outrage when the law is used to control freedom of speech and attack privacy on the internet.
The law contains the usual provisions on hacking, cracking, identity theft and spamming, which we can agree should be illegal. But there’s also cybersex, pornography, file-sharing and the most controversial issue, online libel.
When Philippine President Benigno Aquino III signed the Anti-Cybercrime bill on September 12th, its main purpose is said to “fight online pornography, hacking, identity theft and spamming in the conservative Catholic nation” in the middle of police complaints that they lack the legal tools to stamp out Internet crime.
This has thrust the country in deep waters, trying to implement a bill with which there is not enough tools to implement. Sure, an annual budget of 50 Million Pesos (US$1.2 Million) will be allocated to implement this law, but there is also the question of how this budget will be managed. And a more reasonable question, is this the best way to spend 50 Million in a country where almost a third of the population is in poverty?
It’s main purpose may be to prevent internet crimes that has been affecting the Philippines negatively, for example the BBC has reported the Philippines’ concerns over the growing “cybersex industry”. But the concern is not of this, it is the use of the word “libel” in social networks, blogs and community forums that brands the ordinary Filipino citizen with natural opinions as a criminal. This basically puts an ordinary citizen with opinions in the same box as actual criminals.
The libel section of this act is so oppressive, that it obscures the should-have-been more important sections against heavy cybercrimes. The act states that ”someone found guilty of libelous comments online, including comments made on social networks and blogs, could be jailed for up to 12 years with no possibility of parole.”
A Filipino-Swedish blogger could not have said it any better when she said such actions as these dignifies the stamp on the Philippines as a third world country, for actions caused by impetuous law makers who do not understand the full implications of this law on the country, simply because they do not have complete control of a technology they do not fully understand.
A Forbes magazine article stated that an opposing senator explained the libel section’s potential ramifications. Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, one of the lawmakers who voted against the passage of the law, said:
If you click “like”, you can be sued, and if you share you can also be sued.
Even Mark Zuckerberg can be charged with cyber-libel.
Today, the Anti-Cybercrime law has taken effect despite having no implementing rules and regulations. Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said in a message, “Effectivity of that law is not conditioned upon the adoption of the IRR and the setting up of the Office of Cybercrime.”
How and if this new Anti-Cybercrime law in the Philippines can draw many Filipino citizens into becoming more responsible online citizens remains to be seen. Will this law be repealed? What will the future bring? And so the waiting begins.