Let’s not confuse issues on the cybercrime law-A A +A
Friday, October 5, 2012
THERE'S a lot of sound and fury over the Cybercrime Prevention Act that President Aquino signed into law last Sept. 12. And there’s confusion over major issues.
They’re muddled. Read statements from protesters on the web and on the streets, calling for the death of Republic Act 10175, as if it were totally evil.
The new cybercrime law is not.
There are good provisions needed by the internet world and many of us who just watch the phenomenon but are unavoidably affected by it.
Pornography, sex abuse, hacking that results in theft of assets or destruction of records, fraud, terrorism, and, yes, bullying and libel are virtually unpunished. R.A. 10175 tries to put some order in an untamed jungle that is the internet.
And the attempt is bungled by some provisions, notably that on internet libel, which could inflict havoc instead of curbing abuse and excess of those who communicate online.
Rights not absolute
Let this be made clear then:
1. Opposition, especially from mainstream media and the silent majority, is not to the entire cybercrime law, only to provisions offensive to free speech and free press, due process of law, and equal protection of the law: rights guaranteed by the Constitution;
2. Rights are not absolute but they shouldn’t be thwarted under guise of regulation;
3. The law can be reviewed and amended, with legislators consulting stakeholders and those who know better the impact of new technology on government, business, and the rest of society.
But first, strip the law of revolting provisions, those that would:
-- Punish internet libel one degree higher than ordinary libel; the law doesn’t have to decriminalize libel, it needs only to remove jail term as penalty, but the severity on online libel impedes progress on communication;
-- Allow prosecution under laws other than the cybercrime law the same offense, giving double jeopardy free rein;
-- Empower the Department of Justice to “take down” a blog or website if DOJ, not the court, finds a prima face case against it.
-- Enable a complainant to file his lawsuit before any Regional Trial Court in the country, which thus makes jurisdiction a more oppressive tool for harassment than it already is.
It would also help a great deal if Congress would define more clearly internet libel. R.A. 10175 authors merely lifted a provision from the Revised Penal Code and inserted it in the law.
No specific provision as to who can commit it and how: who among participants in online conversation is liable, whether it includes not only the blogger but also one who tweets, chats, spreads the material, or merely indicates he likes it, and how to pin the liability.
The ambiguity must be killing internet users, just as it is bugging print and broadcast journalists whose work also appears online. Can they set up ordinary libel defenses such as absence of malice and privileged communication?
The objectionable provisions, like ravenous viruses attacking one’s files, can destroy the entire law.
That would be a pity. The nation needs the law but not a sloppily crafted, abominable law.
[Sun.Star Cebu: Pachico A. Seares]
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 05, 2012.