Listing online libel as crime hit-A A +A
Sunday, September 16, 2012
A LAWMAKER feared that the passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act (Republic Act 10175) will only trigger censorship because of the inclusion of online libel as one of the punishable acts.
Kabataan party-list Representative Raymond Palatino cited a recent statement of Senator Vicente Sotto III, who once told critics that the law may be used to penalize users who post defamatory messages against him online.
Sotto is accused of plagiarizing his speeches against the Reproductive Health bill.
"Under this law, politicians can easily file charges against 'hostile and combative' critics and witnesses by claiming that virtual protesters have threatened their life and property. Censorship will lead to repression once an activist or reform advocate has been labeled a cybercriminal," Palatino said.
If this happen, Palatino said the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) may be pre-occupied with tackling cybercrime cases filed by actors, politicians and others who want to punish their online critics instead of running after hackers, malicious spam and virus senders and cybersex operators.
RA 10175 is a consolidation of Senate Bill 2796 and House Bill 5808 passed by both chambers of Congress last June, and was signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III on September 12. The law's contents were made public on Saturday.
The law provides specific guidelines on the "prevention, investigation, suppression and the imposition of penalties" for cybercrimes, which include illegal access, interception, data and system interference, identity theft, cybersex, "cyber-squatting" or the misleading acquisition of Internet domains, child pornography, and online libel.
Another issue raised by Palatino is the possible violation of right to privacy since the law empowers the government to access the private accounts and monitor activities of persons suspected of committing cybercrimes.
"Despite the court order requirement in the law, I still fear that the privacy of individuals will be violated. Will authorities specify the particular file folder to be collected or will they simply download all computer data?" he asked.
Section 5 of the law also penalizes those "aiding or abetting, or attempting to commit cybercrime," yet Palatino said the provision is too general that any person surfing the web, innocently sharing some virus infected files, can be accused of violating it.
"The main concern should be the protection of internet users. Legislation should maintain the openness or the free, public character of the internet. There must be transparency and law enforcers must be accountable for their actions. National regulation is futile since cybercrimes operate globally and virtually," Palatino said. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)