Editorial: #NonLibelousTweet

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014


NOT long after the Supreme Court (SC) ruled yesterday to uphold much of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, Filipinos vented by posting sarcastic comments on Twitter, using the hash tag #NonLibelousTweet.

A hash tag allows Twitter users to find tweets on a specific topic. In yesterday’s case, it allowed users to commiserate and object to the SC’s ruling that the online libel proviso of Republic Act 10175 is constitutional.

SC spokesman Theodore Te, who announced the decision, explained that only the original author may be charged with libel, under Section 4 of the law. Those who merely receive or react to a libelous message cannot be held liable.

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The Court did strike down Section 19, which would have authorized the justice department to block access to computer data or to shut down websites, without having to show it has a legal basis for its actions.

But those wary of RA 10175 point out that it not only restricts free expression on the Internet; it also fails to spell out how information and communications technology can be developed and its infrastructure protected.

Democracy.Net.PH (@PHNetDems on Twitter), for example, is campaigning that Congress adopt instead the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom, because unlike RA 10175, it clearly protects the citizens’ right to criticize public officials and candidates, as well as comment on poor services by companies.

Government has been saying it needs RA 10175 to go after online crimes like child pornography and cybersex. Yet existing laws, like RA 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009, already empower the state to go after these crimes.

There is more to the Cybercrime Prevention Act than online libel. But one can hardly fault citizens for focusing on it. As @audreydomasian said: “Yung feeling na pwede ka makulong dahil sa opinyon mo pero walang mangyayari sa mga nagnanakaw ng pondo ng bayan (That feeling one gets from knowing that we may be jailed for our opinions, yet those who steal public funds go scot-free).” #NonLibelousTweet

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 19, 2014.

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