The Philippines' New 'Cybercrime' Law Aims To 'Protect' Citizens By Going After Filesharing, Online Libel

from the an-insulting-law-that's-tough-on-libel----go-figure dept

About a year ago, the Philippines pushed through a completely unneeded anti-counterfeiting bill at the behest of the WIPO (itself working at the behest of the US government). Despite the evidence that counterfeiting isn't a big problem, the bill was pushed through and defended with a bit of doublespeak by the Philippines IP office, who claimed that the bill had nothing to do with various corporate interests applying pressure... except for the ones that have "lost a lot of profits due to piracy." To quote Glyn Moody: "Indeed." [Wryly raised eyebrow emoticon]

The Filipino government has now moved past that, enacting a so-called Cybercrime Prevention Act that goes well beyond dealing with hackers and fraudsters. As Mike pointed out earlier, the new law contained some very broad wording that outlawed "cybersex," subjecting violators to some very harsh punishments (up to six years in jail and fines up to $25,000). That, in and of itself, would be worrying. But the law goes even further, recasting former civil offenses as criminal acts. As Patrick Villavicencio at InterAksyon points out, the legislation bears a lot of resemblance to the failed SOPA/PIPA bills, aiming at taking down filesharing rather than protecting citizens from online attacks.
“What SOPA and PIPA aimed to do, the Cybercrime Law has done,” Acero said, referring to the objective of the two bills to curb the rampant sharing and downloading of movie and music content online, as lobbied by firms in Hollywood.

Under Section 6 of the law, all crimes “defined and penalized by the Revised Penal Code, as amended, and special laws” can be punishable under the Act if they are committed with, using, and through a computer system.

Among the country’s special laws, the Intellectual Property Code penalizes, among others, illegal distribution and consumption of copyrighted content.
University of the Philippines College of Law Professor Atty. JJ Disini, meanwhile, said that because of Section 6, the law essentially made all crimes a form of cybercrime when committed through a computer or Internet system.
Rather than infringement being a civil issue or a minor crime at best, the additional wording drags this activity under the heading "cybercrime," allowing law enforcement to collect real-time traffic data on filesharers. It also contains a "takedown clause" which gives the Department of Justice "sweeping powers to issue a block or restrict order against websites." This puts the power in the hands of content producers, allowing them to have a site blocked or taken down simply by filing a request with the DOJ. One needs only look at the average legacy industry "rogue site" list to see how this provision could result in the muting of several legitimate sites.

Beyond this aspect lay some very disturbing new limits on speech. GMA News has a wrap-up of ten of the most chilling new limitations on expression, most of which stem from some very generous additions to libel laws.
Your tweet about the barangay captain who loves San Miguel more than his job? That could be classified as libel, which is defined in the Revised Penal Code as "the public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person..." Take note of the part where it says "real or imaginary." You're damned if you're lying and you're damned if you're telling the truth.
That's just a small part of it. People can no longer "blacken the memory of one who is dead," no matter how terrible a person they were. It also does away with the requirement of criminal intent for cybercrimes. Instead, simply performing anything defined as a criminal act, no matter your intentions, could get you arrested.

Then there's this bit of nastiness:
In an InterAksyon.com article written by Patrick Villavicencio, University of the Philippines College of Law Professor Atty. JJ Disini said that under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 the so-called "victims" and their lawyers "could argue in court that old libelous posts [that are] still live today can be charged with online libel." The report further quoted Disini, who explained, "Kasi pwede nilang sabihin na (Because it could mean) by keeping it there today, you’re still publishing it now. So if you’re still publishing it after the law took effect, then you’re liable for its publication today."
There's nothing like having previously legal activity "grandfathered in" by new laws. Not only will Filipinos need to be very careful what they say going forward, they're also going to take a long look at anything they've said in the past. Not only that, but they're going to need to be very careful with their responses to anything others say that veers towards libel.
Those who play a part in unwittingly or willfully encouraging the spread of libelous content shall be charged for abetting libel. That means the act of clicking the "Like" button of Facebook or retweeting posts on Twitter may be tagged as unlawful as well.
What else? "Ironic, suggestive or metaphorical language" can be considered libelous. And the penalties are incredibly harsh. Online libel can be punished with a prison term of 12 years and a ₱1,000,000 fine, far harsher than the penalties for offline libel.

Between the free speech limitations and the sweeping powers being granted to content creators and law enforcement, the new law is bad news all around. The DOJ will be meeting with stakeholders in October to ensure that the IRR (implementation of rules and regulations) "will not stifle basic human rights, not the least of which is internet users' freedom of speech and expression."

Well, we'll see how that goes. Most "stakeholder" meetings seem to be long on listening to concerns but short on actually addressing them.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    trish, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:30pm

    hmmph

    these are the people who'll make grand pretentious patriotic moveis featuring people who fight against injustics and waving flags etc. backdoors theyre working to destroy our liberties.

     

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    •  
      icon
      gorehound (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 3:00pm

      Re: hmmph

      The People need to rise up and take down the Corrupt Government.
      US Gov works hard to take away our Rights, take huge sums of money in, and try to boss around other Nations.

       

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    DogBreath, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:32pm

    People can no longer "blacken the memory of one who is dead," no matter how terrible a person they were.

    Ferdinand Marcos would be proud of this law, applying to himself, of course.

     

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      Tunnen (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:53pm

      Re:

      Hmmm, I wonder how that's going to work in conjunction with Godwin's Law.

      Or do the Nazi's count as "memory of many who are dead" thereby allowing a loophole. Filipinos just won't be able to make analogies between Hitler and an unfavorable act. =P

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 2:04pm

      Re:

      Invoking Godwin's law in 3...2...1...

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 10:20pm

      Re:

      The people of the Philippines are condemned to poverty while this law stays on the books. Libel laws are routinely used by the biggest criminals in the land to prevent their true character becoming known. Criminality is the thing that makes the third world (poor countries) into the third world.

      As an example, one of the largest criminals ever in Australia, Mr Alan Bond, portrayed himself as a successful businessman for many years. Mr Bond would take libel action against anybody who suggested that he was a crook. It is only now that he has served a term of imprisonment, that Australians are finally free to comment on his character.

      Libel laws are a very dangerous two-edged sword. Truth should be a complete defence every time. Dead persons should never be protected.

       

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    Michael, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:37pm

    Pretty soon using the internet will be a crime.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:43pm

      Re:

      Pretty soon using the internet will be a crime.

      Criminal!

       

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      Tunnen (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:54pm

      Re:

      I thought that was the current consensus by most governments. They just haven't been able to arrest everyone yet.

       

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        Michael, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 2:10pm

        Re: Re:

        "I thought that was the current consensus by most governments. They just haven't been able to arrest everyone yet."

        Or shut down the internet, but then they wouldn't be able to keep tabs, arrest and extort as efficiently.

         

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        Forest_GS (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 5:42pm

        Re: Re:

        A government would be in trouble if it had to put over 10% of it's citizens into jail.

        And I'd guess at least 50% have acquired at least one bootleg CD, DVD, and/or digital files.

         

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          Realist, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 9:16pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Actually, being from the Philippines, I would think it would be more like 85-90% of Filipinos who have bought downloaded/pirated music, movies, and other digital files! This is based on the people I associate with which represents people from Classes A to E!

           

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            Realist, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 9:19pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            *who have bought/downloaded pirated music, movies, and other digital files!

             

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              Mega1987 (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 10:24pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              They're expecting "US" Pinoys to buy an original DVD/CD(media/games) that cost what? from 300-5k Philppines Peso...

              and the daily salary don't exceed too much from the min 400-500 PHp....

              DO math why us Pilipinos prefer pirated over original...

               

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:42pm

    Philippines Passes a Cybercrime Prevention Act ...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:45pm

    malicious imputation .....

    Politicians like to control rhe information made available, and this law seems to allow them to do that. Making the leaving of staements available to the publis is a nide touch; we will keep you in proson and awy from a computer till you take it down.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:47pm

    And ...

     

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    NoahVail (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

    Foreign Exchange Rate

    If I knew how much the Philippine Government was bribed to pass these laws, I could compute the price of a Philippine citizen on the open market.

     

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      Tunnen (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:58pm

      Re: Foreign Exchange Rate

      I thought I remember hearing that the Philippines was one of the most corrupt nations in Eastern Asia. I think it was the UN or World Bank.

       

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    Chilly8, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 1:50pm

    People in the Phillipines will just simply start using VPNs. I would not be surprised if VPN companies started getting a lot of business from users in the Phillipines.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 2:01pm

    That means the act of clicking the "Like" button of Facebook or retweeting posts on Twitter may be tagged as unlawful as well.

    So, if I see a libelous tweet (which this law expands to include a vast array of tweets both past and future), and I retweet it, saying "can you believe the libel this guy is spouting?", I am guilty of abetting libel?
    That seems sensible.

     

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    Mega1987 (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 5:08pm

    here in the Philippines wants Sotto's head on a oversized silver platter...

    He's the nut-job who put the extra provision that made the Cybercrime law look like SOPA/PIPA's cousin.

    All due to the fact that someone from the net, commented that his quote came from someone else(Read: Copy,A big EMPHASIZE on Translate then Paste) when he's saying his piece against Reproductive health Bill(Education about sex, which some here thinks legalizing abortion and the use of contraceptives.)

     

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      DogBreath, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 6:32pm

      Re:

      Sotto is a uncaring flagrant plagiarizer and an unrepentant liar.

      (Since I found this in a Google search, I guess someone who works for Google in the Philippines is going to prison for, "Those who play a part in unwittingly or willfully encouraging the spread of libelous content shall be charged for abetting libel." clause.)


      New York Times
      Published: August 29, 2012

      A Plagiarist’s Rant Against Birth Control

      Published: August 29, 2012

      Two days later, news that Mr. Sotto had plagiarized his speech spilled across blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Careful readers proved that he’d copied and pasted, without citation, large portions from as many as at least five online sources. Among them were the writings of Sarah Pope, who blogs as “the Healthy Home Economist”; a New York University Web site on the notable birth-control advocate Margaret Sanger; and an American activist named Janice Formichella, writing for Feminists for Choice. What’s more, the senator twisted their words for his own purposes.

      Mr. Sotto forcefully denied responsibility rather than confessing and offering an apology. When Ms. Pope blogged her dismay at being plagiarized, the senator declared on Filipino TV: “Why would I quote from a blogger? She’s just a blogger.” His chief of staff, Hector Villacorta, told reporters that blogs aren’t copyrighted, governments are exempt from copyright laws, and parliamentary immunity protects the senator. Besides, the Philippines “plagiarized the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “Even our image was copied from God. We are all plagiarists.”


      ...

      Indeed, Mr. Sotto continues his defiance. He has cast himself as “a victim of cyber-bullying” and backed a proposed law that aims to “regulate” blogs, as his supporters cheer his pluck against academics and intellectuals. He happily misrepresents research studies, avoids mentioning their outdated vintage and likens maternal mortality statistics to Nazi propaganda. He also refuses to explain how his wife’s oral contraceptive killed their son in 1975, when that pill wasn’t even on the market until 1978 and was released in Asia only in 1985.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 5:59pm

    It also does away with the requirement of criminal intent for cybercrimes. Instead, simply performing anything defined as a criminal act, no matter your intentions, could get you arrested.

    JJ Disini said that under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 the so-called "victims" and their lawyers "could argue in court that old libelous posts [that are] still live today can be charged with online libel."

    "Ironic, suggestive or metaphorical language" can be considered libelous. And the penalties are incredibly harsh. Online libel can be punished with a prison term of 12 years and a ₱1,000,000 fine, far harsher than the penalties for offline libel.

    So let me get this straight: if you say something online, and it later turns out to be ironic, you have to pay $24,110 and spend 12 years in jail?
    Everyone responsible for that becoming law needs to be locked up, either in jail or in an insane asylum.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 7:51pm

    Oh good, if their goal is to greatly increase prison population it's a huge step towards success. Actually, if they want to jail each and every single Internet user it's a huge step towards success.

    I could attribute that to insanity but sadly we all know what is it about...

     

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    Violated (profile), Oct 4th, 2012 @ 8:15pm

    From what I have seen this morning then many of those people in the Philippines are blacking out their Facebook accounts in protest starting with students and working up.

    I really can't see that there is any good in this new law when it seems very anti-society and only helps to keep the poor in the harsh poverty they well know by removing the few options they have to try and better their lives.

    The main focus of piracy in this country beyond some pirated movie sellers in local markets would actually be bluetooth. The locals share around videos and music as it becomes popular. Internet piracy of course works but this is a country with a rather unstable wireless Internet network system with frequent disconnections and rolling brownouts. The locals seem to prefer to waste their time with online game-play.

    This law is nothing more glorious mistake and benefits the working on Philippines society none.

     

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    Chilly8, Oct 4th, 2012 @ 10:23pm

    I run an open proxy, primarily for people to be able to bypass workplace firewalls and get internet radio at work, and I have seen more hits to my proxy coming from the Phillipines. While I block porn, warez, and gambling, I do have social networking sites and message boards allowed.

    Since my proxy is in the United States, it is only subject to American laws, and not subject to Filipino laws. So Filipinos can hide their activities from their government by using my US-based proxy, as long as what they are doing does not break US laws.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2012 @ 2:00am

    when all this crap finally gets sorted out, everywhere, and people look back at this era where the entertainment industries were so powerful as to be running not just some individual countries but almost the entire world, in order to simply enable staying in the 20th century, rather than moving into the modern age, i wonder what will be said? will we of this time be classed as pussies, as wimps or as stupid idiots that allowed this to happen? will it make politicians think any differently? not on your life!! they will still be pocketing as much as possible so as to help similar ridiculous, backward thinking causes!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 5th, 2012 @ 12:14pm

    Maybe they didn't think this through...

    If libel is now defined as "the public and malicious imputation of a crime...real or imaginary", then I'd think that anyone who filed charges under the new act could be charged for libel. For that matter, accusing someone of libel could itself be libelous.

    There are many reasons why the new law is bad; this, on the other hand, is both bad and stupid.

     

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    felicitas Jr., Wilfredo Magkidong, Oct 6th, 2012 @ 1:15am

    my words.....

    I was so very disappointed when i heard news about the recently passed Republic Act 10175 or the Cyber Crime Prevention Act. The provisions that was inserted by the law, definitely violate the Article 3, section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitutions.
    We the Filipino people must be vocal of this law for amendment because it violates our rights of freedom of expressions and speech. I'm against this law not as internet user but because it is unconstitutional.

     

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    Auwal Suleman Ingawa, Dec 27th, 2012 @ 2:13pm

    cyber crime do contribute inmensely in showingbad attiude especially among children.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 8th, 2014 @ 6:16pm

    facebook

    How can i report somebodythat make and use the pictre of my husbnd and makd a certain accnt in facebook or identity theft? And make sme storiest that can make broke tgje dignity of us couple?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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