The latest outrage fad: Protests against the new Philippine anti-cybercrime law have become personal

After scanning online forums and social media discussions in the aftermath of the enactment of Republic Act 10175 also known as the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, one thing has become quite evident: the fear mongering that has erupted around the Act (Jojo Robles in a Manila Standard article, for example wrote that “unprecedented freedom, anonymity and democracy allowed by the Internet may have come to a screeching, crashing halt”) has caused quite an amusing hysteria in the online commentary community.

Sideshow acts like Carlos Celdran, for example are now openly provoking the enforcement of the new law, posting statements on Twitter like “Heard [Philippine Senator] Tito Sotto was cruising a gay bath house in Quezon City last week. Spread your own truth about Sotto today!” and “Senator Tito Sotto is not only a plagiarist and misogynist, but he is also a coddler of rapists, drug dealers”. Various commenters on Facebook and members of online message board giant PinoyExchange.com (PEx) are doing the same, posting statements like the following made by a PEx netizen Lucio_Liu

who cares about this cyber crime law!?

hindi pa rin maitatago ang KATOTOHANAN na ABNOY! BAKLING! PANOT! BAD BREATH (TALSIK LAWAY)! TAMAD at B0B0 si NOYNOY!

hindi rin nila MAIKAKAILA na MAKATI pa sa GABING BICOL, MANGWAWASAK ng PAMILYA (mahilig KUMABIT!), MALANDI at MAY STD yang si KRIS AQUINO!

It’s a temper tantrum on a national scale against the actions of politicians who represent the Filipino people on account of their being elected to their offices on the back of the popular vote. A predisposition to make things personal with regard to the new anti-cybercrime law — to name-and-shame people — is no different from other “activist” “movements” past and present. My colleague Ben Kritz recently wrote about the anti-epal “movement” (a movement that aims to name-and-shame grandstanding politicians) and made this indictment of the larger society that hosts the malaise such movements aspire to uproot:

Like many people, I am not amused by giant posters featuring re-purposed actors and photo templates for mild retardation memes; but the practical solution to that, it seems, is the one suggested by COMELEC Chairman [Sixto] Brilliantes: If you find it offensive, then remember those people and don’t vote for them.

Simply attacking the practice of epal only addresses a symptom of a far bigger social dysfunction in this country, and a relatively minor part of the methodology by which that dysfunction is institutionally perpetuated in the electoral system.

Anti-epalism, the brouhaha over the non-passage of the Reproductive (RH) Bill, and now these so-called “protests” versus the scarecrow that is Philippine anti-cybercrime laws all have, true to Filipino form, become personal. Kritz may as well have been talking about just about any of the ocho-ocho hysterics — outrage fads as we now call them — sweeping self-described “social media activists”. As my other colleague ChinoF wrote in his seminal article where he coins the term…

Outrage is easy to make into a fad because people often give in to their emotions. Putting everything to the test, including their own feelings, is not popular. But people get suckered into it because, first of all, they don’t really like to think. Many Filipinos tend to be that way, too. An outrage fad can also show how ill-informed the person taking part is. They don’t want to know more, they think the little they know is enough for anger.

The issue it seems is obvious. All roads lead back to the fundamental character of the Filipino and the dysfunctional culture it spawned to the tune of a nation of 100 million. Filipinos are simply unable to regulate and police themselves. That kind of behaviour expected of a modern society is simply beyond the cognitive reach of the average Filipino mind and is evident in the way the simplest of rules and the most basic of courtesies simply escape the grasp of Filipino thinking. To such a society, the very modern privilege of “freedom of speech” and the “right” to “elect” their leaders have been granted. But questions remain as to whether Filipinos have truly earned these privileges.

On the back of a sense of entitlement to “freedom of speech” Filipinos are like four-year-olds armed with acetylene torches and averse to supervision as Get Real Post writer Ilda observes

[…] there are Filipinos who insist that setting up standards or some kind of guidelines is tantamount to suppression of freedom of speech. They even claim that people can say or write offensive language directed at individuals as they please and still be accepted as merely exercising their “freedom of speech.” Never mind that offensive language directed at individuals actually discourages free flow of discussion. You can say that they are being very ignorant of the law. Which is why discussions on forums in the Philippine setting quite often turn into mere noise.

We must resolve to follow the same type of standard to keep up with the rest of the western world and put order in our communities. We cannot continue to run our organizations or communities like the Wild, Wild West and expect progress to happen.

And to the notion of accountability over the sort of leaders and “representatives” Filipinos elect, we defer to the simple principle cited in the same article…

The late freedom of speech advocate and philosopher, Alexander Meiklejohn stated that, “the concept of democracy is that of self-government by the people. For such a system to work an informed electorate is necessary.”

Based on what Meiklejohn said, it is obvious that democracy in the Philippines cannot work. Democracy cannot work because not all the members of the electorate are educated enough to demand information from their public servants. Not only that, our history under authoritarian rule has somehow screwed up the way we enjoy our freedom.

I might add to that, “informed” and intelligent enough to work with said information.

On that note, the more important question needs to be answered: Are we addressing mere symptoms as Ben asserts, or are we getting to the bottom of the real Rizalian cancer that begs all the obvious solutions?

When we delegate intelligent debate to our favourite costumed superhero “social media activists” on the Net, we sort of lose the plot and create unnecessary noise.

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20 Comments on “The latest outrage fad: Protests against the new Philippine anti-cybercrime law have become personal”

  1. Despite high internet/smartphone usage, the philippines is in an embryonic stage of growth relative to the maturity of use/application of social media.
    Consequently what is needed is greater understanding of both the benefits, and pitfalls, to individuals and society at large, rather than hastily, and bady drafted, elements of a bill which clearly could be used to adversely harrass individuals, and the track record in the philippines is that this is more likely than not.
    Even if the fear, lack of understanding by many, prevents discussion through self-censorship then it has already caused a backward step and a further climate of fear. We have few if any mainstream investigative reporters or interviewers of stature and independence. Most are simply ‘envelope journalists’ so the 4th arm of democracy hardly exists and politicians get away with their corruption, scams, abuses of power through a code of silence and a cloak of secrecy.
    The internet, and FoI is their worst nightmare since it can make them accountable to people they do not even respect and regard as low class! Pot, kettle, black, i think.
    Social media is also an emotional safety valve for many – better than using a gun in a mall -, and it is also a far more accurate guage of opinion/feelings than manipulated and politically driven ‘surveys’.
    Modern politicians in the west take note of social media, rather than the approach in repressive countries of trying to control/restrict/censor it, which usually and ultimately backfires on those guilty of such authoritarian attitudes and outmoded thinking.
    There are so many missed opportunities with the internet in the country for education purposes, business development etc. sad that positive innovative thinking is not more prevalent and more of a priority.
    Embrace change rather than be modern day luddites.
    It simply reflects the need for new blood, new thinking and new names in politics where innovation, commitment and achievement in the real world ranks higher than being able to read the news or act badly, or simply see political position as free access to the country’s ATM machine which is filled up by honest hard working people ( politicians and professionals excluded since 1.4 ex 1.7 million pay no tax at all!)
    The saddest part is that the country clearly cannot manage itself and since US culture is the predominant culture and US envy the main driver the country has usurped its own identity in exchange for the worst in american politics combined with the worst in chinese attitudes. Result a schizophrenic basket case.

    1. What all this will likely result in (whether as an outcome of the application of the law itself, or the fear drummed up around it), is to push online writers underground or behind pseudonyms and alternate online identities (or both). It will not change anything but will merely expand the already thriving underground or black market for ideas.

      When that happens, then the call to decriminalise libel will better resonate – kind of like this whole call to legalise marijuana or prostitution.

      1. i dont disagree, but find it very sad if ideas have to be regarded as “underground”!
        i have experienced that in other countries.
        does the philippines want to be ranked alongside those!
        that is retrogressive by any criteria.

        1. You got a president who doesn’t want to be criticized yet dishes out the worst criticisms at the worst times (twice ABS Anniv and BI party).

          Right after using social media to lambast the CJ and even going as far as posting salary details and other sensitive info online, you got two laws fast-tracked.

          Data Privacy Act – Now gov’t officials will never have their personal data published online as well as their SALN. BUT the law mandates that everyone else is fair game to data mining and their details can be privy to gov’t officials as long as there is probable cause which is…

          the

          Cybercrime law – Now you cannot publish anything “libelous” with a vague clause that allows the “aggrieved” to trump up charges against a netizen.

          I’m shuddering at what the third law is and while the Pinoys are blinking in shock

          FOI that was supposedly lodged earlier than these two has been passed over, it’s not a priority, never mind that it’s one of the 40+ promises of noynoy (heck data privacy is just 6 months old as a bill!)

          Hypocrisy written all over this administration

  2. Not just trying to impede upon a netizen’s ability to employ freedom of speech. The ultimate goal is to preserve the current status quo by blocking the emergence of an online direct democracy, by weeding out the sources and the platform from which proponents of these so called “subversive elements” operate.

    They seek to control the net just like any other media, yet the internet is more than just that. It is an Adhocracy born from chaos out of necessity. A future perfect government where the people are allowed to govern themselves through the practical use of technology.

    You call people immature, yet people managed to create Ad hoc groups without government intervention. Now we have google, facebook, wikis, kickstarter, and all of those countless apps and freeware readily available to the public.

    People are able to organize themselves into forums and discuss matters of great importance. People are able to enjoy fruits of the post-scarcity of information and data through p2p. Copyright is shifting towards copyleft. And more and more people are able to make their voices heard and create impromptu events or just plain blogging or news mongering.

    This is what the Oligarchs fear the most. They are afraid that one day we will realize that they no longer have any power over us, enabling us to freely craft our nation’s destiny without their grubby hands holding us down.

  3. It is Patriotic to violate the Cybercrime law. The YellowTard President wants to take away slowly our Freedom of the Press; and Freedom of Expression. It is our Sacred Rights, in the constitution. Aquino wants the ABS-CBN, and his cahoot Media networks, to be the only sources of information. Become a Filipino Patriot…Trash the law…

  4. Much discussion has been focused on this libel clause of the Cybercrime Law. But I don’t see any regarding the CICC, which is formed for the enforcement of this law.

    How exactly would “suppression of real-time commission of cybercrime offenses through a computer emergency response team” be done? I’m starting to think of NSA and their sophisticated eavesdropping and hacking capability. What could be “appropriate and effective measures to prevent and suppress cybercrime”?

    The body is expected to have “capacity building” but with a budget of only 50 million pesos a year. So maybe it can’t go to NSA level, unless there is already an existing capability in the military.

    Lastly, this body is “under the administrative supervision of the Office of the President” (and the presidential pork barrel perhaps). Dun dun.

    1. “So maybe it can’t go to NSA level, unless there is already an existing capability in the military.”

      And that’s like, how long? AFAIK, our military is barely above parade-level. Considering that our neighbors have functional-enough militaries, that means PH is the weakest link. No surprise if some lolhuge neighbor comes a-knocking.

  5. To challenge their integrity, can’t the people push to amend the cybercrime libel law to exclude all serving public office, past and present to the right to file this suit if the material published is based on an opinion related or pertaining to public matter and their actions while in power?

  6. Freedom is not absolute… The same applies to freedom of expression which is not plenary as regards its scope. If we are not going to put some limitations on use of social networking then it is prone to abuse by those people with evil intention. It is a fact that many crimes are committed through the use of social networks and sometimes ill-doers could easily evade being caught because of the accessibility of the internet. The lawmakers would have not approved of the bill were it not to the advantages that it could offer.

  7. It is in these times where we must be reminded of the importance of responsibility, ethics, respect and discipline and the like, which is very obvious na kulang na kulang sa mga kababayan natin.

    The pinoys are lacking discipline as what they’re saying? then PROMOTE it! this “law” is not the solution. nor that any laws are perfect. What we need is something like a booth accessible to everyone to give flyers to the common pinoy indicating the importance of discipline, respect, responsibility, ethics and what can it do to a person and in effect a country.

  8. for how many times have we asked for growth, opportunities and what have you and yet no one is looking back from the basics

    everything starts from families. but if a parent is doing nothing except drinking alcohol in the streets then what’s the use? The gov’t did not even looked into this issue. now they’re unaware why we have such a dysfunctional society and yet they’re unaware WHY it had gotten this way?

    when was the last time they promoted these traits like ethics, responsibility, discipline et al? This is common sense and yet its importance is great that we should always be reminded of this.

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