Philippine online activists step up battle versus ‘pwede na yan’ anti-cybercrime laws

Hysterics around the enactment and implementation of the Philippines’ Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10175) continue to sweep the country’s community of social media “activists”. The new law itself is just another example of Filipinos’ renowned jeepney approach to facing its challenges — another Pinoy-style pwede-na-yan solution (in my colleague Mike Portes’s words) that fails in its bid to get on top of a complex beast. Still the law, being as described, is likely to also be a fail when it comes to enforcement…

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What may be construed as perpetrators of “online libel” are often mere messengers.

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Content that we come across online that may be interpreted as defamatory or “libelous” is often removed X times from its original source. Content that is yet to be proven to be “libelous” can come in the form that is either cut-and-pasted from other sources, forwarded in email messages, be citations from sources closer (say, by X-i degrees) to the original source, and/or mere insinuations.

As I cited in a previous article, what most journalists and Web writers do most often is merely cite allegations articulated in a third source — as in when we quote a news report where said allegation is made — which, itself, is often a quote or statement from an identified source. This puts most writers in a position at least twice removed from the commission of an act that may be construed as libelous.

States and governments acting alone in implementing legal measures against “cybercrime” mount pointless efforts.

Jurisdiction issues alone already make mounting a legal case against online defamation an exceedingly complex project. The RA 10175 merely jumps off on the Philippines’ arcane libel law and offers, at best, a vague framework for prosecuting offenses to it perpetrated online. Yet, “cybercrime” by nature is almost always an international enterprise. Assets and services applied to the perpetration of cybercrime — or, for that matter, the undertaking of just about any transaction or activity performed over the Internet — transcend borders and jurisdictions.

Governments would have to jointly develop, enter into, and agree on international conventions that, by their very nature, require some degree of compromise in inidivdual states’ definition of key concepts such as obscenity, privacy and, of course, defamation among others for the sake of standardisation. Considering too the economic climate the world finds itself in, and how business are inclined to see “over-regulation” of internet activity as detrimental to much-needed vitality in commerce today, it is unlikely that there will be much political will to mount such an effort on the required scale.

A sensible degree of self-regulation is already in place amongst digital content producers.

This is evident in the manner with which Web publishers and the community of commentators that surround them have been successful at calling out and attracting punitive action upon instances of plagiarism, offensive behaviour, and bullying not just online but in the real world. The examples of online “activism” against Senator Tito Sotto‘s alleged plagiarism, Robert Carabuena’s assault on a traffic officer, and the recent gun-pointing incident allegedly perpetrated by Allan Bantiles, all of which involve real-world criminal acts or acts against sensible community standards demonstrate the swiftness of “justice” online.

Furthermore, Web producers worth their salt built enduring reputations purely upon the rare skills they apply navigating the self-regulation that has existed on the Web long before the word “cybercrime” even existed. This is evident in how scammers, posers, paid hacks, attention whores, and no-substance emo wannabes after enjoying their 15 minutes of fame (in Web-years) eventually lose their fragrance to the broader community of content consumers. Just as there is no grand designer that regulated the evolution of complex life and its wondrous variety, real and consistent Web publishing rock stars rose to prominence not on the back of state regulation but by slugging it out in the Darwinian landscape of Web self-regulation.

Ironically, the success and continued effectiveness of this self-regulation hinges on more freedom and less regulation across domains within the Web. Liars, cheats, plagiarists, and propagandists do not prosper because a free exchange of ideas applies selection pressures over the Net landscape that reward quality and extinguish deception.

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Interestingly, the British can potentially be looked to as a model for what looks to be shaping into a more intelligent quest for the Holy Grail of Net regulation. At the heart of the British government’s designs for a sensible Web regulation regime is a give-and-take approach

(1) Placing greater responsibility on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to proactively identify “trolls” and spare victims the need to shoulder costly effort to mount legal action against them;

(2) Clear guidelines and procedures will be put in place to guide Web publishers in their roles as community members in the prevention of online defamation; and,

(3) Offering better protection to Web publishers against libel in exchange for their cooperation in identifying offending parties who make use of their assets (presumably part of the guidelines and procedures framework spelt out above in Item 2).

While ISPs and other service providers in the United Kingdom have tentatively welcomed the concepts underlying the bill, the biggest criticism it has so far received from Web publishers there was around perceptions that online anonymity may be targetted if the new laws are passed. Justine Roberts, the co-founder of popular parenting website Mumsnet warns that “the defamation bill may financially benefit website operators but could undermine the culture of the web”. Furthermore…

Roberts cautioned against blanket laws that might outlaw anonymity online. “No one wants to protect the identity of nasty internet trolls and there is much to be welcomed in the defamation bill around reducing complexity and recognising that many websites are not publishers in the traditional sense, but it’s important that we don’t completely devalue and disallow anonymity online,” she said.

“The ability to both ask and advise anonymously is at the very core of the support Mumsnet provides. Take a scenario of someone dealing with an abusive relationship, they are often concerned about sharing their experiences for fear of being identified in real life and the potential repercussions for family and safety. It would not be in the public, or personal, interest if a woman being abused by her husband felt she could not seek help confidentially.

Coming back to the Philippines, various groups are currently filing complaints over the “unconstitutional” nature of the new Anti-Cybercrime Law under RA 10175 and even mounting cyber-attacks against key government websites in protest against said law.

11 Replies to “Philippine online activists step up battle versus ‘pwede na yan’ anti-cybercrime laws”

      1. Please do not get me wrong. I am not a supporter of hacktivism. Their reaction to the establishment is their way of protest or civil disobedience. But the problem is, it violates the cyber-crime law. I prefer the legal way of checks and balances. I just hope the guys tone down as this might lead to a limited cyber-war.

        Cheers Gogs!

  1. Thanks Fishball. You call them as you see them. That CJ on Trial was all fair and square. Very efficient use of tax payer money. Dispute with China , very fair and square to DFA. Usually there should be one simple answer to a simple question like who sent Trillanes but Noynoy at last count has about four answers. Nice fair and square . Remind me to compete with you since you seem to have the concept cemented so solidly on terra firma.

    1. Thomas Jefferson ,this was not meant for you but for poster named “Devin” . I am requesting deletion of my two posts here in reply to a deleted post.

  2. I personally feel that these “hacktivist” actually act against their supposed cause.

    They give more reason to justify the laws they are pushing even though it is unreasonable.

    Kind of like the bullying law where they are contemplating adding parents in the bullying law! “WHAT?!” So once the parents are added, the children or child could claim his own parent or someone else’s supposedly bullies him. How can you actually prove or disprove that when it is a child and an adult?

    I am actually not supportive of the Bantay Bata thing because it is being abused by “wise” children. Think about it, disciplining is different from actually beating them up. Yet, a single slap or hit to the hand for being unruly or just plain wrong to the child and he can call Bantay Bata.

    Watch a segment by comedian Russell Peters and you would get a comedic joke on this segment on how Canada/America implements this and how it can adversely affect parenting by actually removing their “fangs” to show authority towards their kids.

    I understand the reasons but they should thought about it more thoroughly before throwing it out there.

    But hacktivism is not the way to go.

  3. One item I keep noticing is this — many commentators keep suggesting that PresiNoynoy signed the CyberBill because he was given ill-advise, or that PresiNoynoy was pre-occupied. The other possibility keeps getting ignored — that deLima, Lacierda and various lawyers gave presiNoynoy a detailed interpretation of the cyberBill (including this where the cyBerbill can be used for Men-of-Power (Sotto, but really it is for PresiNoynoy) to clamp down on irritating comments from those not-his-KKK’s. The cyBerBill gives Malakanyang more power — and preSiNoynoy signed it.

    1. Yours is definitely a possibility. The guy has always had no idea about the “optics” of a situation let alone the ramification. Not a leader, not a planner not a winner. Thank you Philippines for voting this pathetic cringing little milk sop in. Is that libel?

  4. It is 2012. The new world order is coming! He who rules cyberspace rules the world! The death of freedoms of expression and speech is deemed necessary to control the puny human netizens. Selected and blanket censorship will shut down the free communications and thoughts of these human pests.

    Privileged communications is no longer protected. Double jeopardy is allowed to suppress human response. Human court orders cannot stand against Sky-net. There shall be no protection of rights or properties. All this is under state control of Sky-net. Everything is fully controlled by Sky-net!

    Supremacist Sky-net has ordered all its part human, part cyber T-101 organisms known as terminators of freedom to launch attacks against blogs, sites and individual netizens. These superior organisms will carry out the attacks without hesitation, without question and without mercy.

    Where is John Connor? He is in all of us. To fight for what is right is the only way to beat the machine. Judgement day is coming! The human netizens will prevail over the tyranny of the machine. Sky-net will fail!

    Is this libel?

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