Editorial: Being responsible online

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Monday, March 10, 2014


IT'S good that more groups are going to the Supreme Court to file petitions seeking to either void either partially or entirely the cybercrime law. Among the latest to have joined is the group called Bloggers and Netizens for Democracy (Band).

“The fear is that many provisions could be used against legitimate internet activities,” Tony Cruz of Band said in a roundtable discussion with Cebu media sponsored by the Cebu Bloggers Society. The group wants, among others, the provision on online libel removed and joins the call to decriminalize libel altogether.

Interestingly, the discussion on the cybercrime law mentioned the celebration on March 29 of the 20th birthday of Philippine internet. Not many people know that internet in the country will be two decades old.

“We hope the country would preserve the five basic principles of Internet freedom: expression, access, openness, innovation and privacy, and not endanger or threaten it,” Cruz noted.

Well said. But while the stress should rightly be on freedom of expression and expanding it, bloggers and netizens should not forget the other side of that principle, which is responsibility. After all, lack of responsibility can also endanger or threaten that freedom.

While the provision on online libel may have been inserted into the cybercrime law out of spite as alleged, the fact remains that many lawmakers, even the well-meaning ones, didn’t object to its inclusion because of the worry about abuse of internet’s use.

In a way, the fight against the cybercrime law and the effort by organized bloggers and netizens to raise awareness about its objectionable provisions should also be used to ease the legitimate worries about online abuse of the freedom of expression.

Since they have started banding (no pun intended) together, they might as well work to institutionalize principles regarding responsible use of the internet. Like traditional media, organized bloggers and netizens can find ways to police their own ranks.

The push for freedom of expression online can gain more adherents if its abuse is lessened or eradicated.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 11, 2014.

Opinion

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