Thoughts on the Cybercrime Law [☝]

October 07, 2012

On October 3, 2012, the law dubbed as the "E-Martial Law" was implemented by the Philippine government. Critics say that the law violates the freedom of speech which is a basic human right. As expected, this law was faced by overwhelming protests by people saying that this law is unfair and should be junked.

But what exactly does this law say?

(DISCLAIMER: I do not specialize in law. I read the full text of the Act at the site and the following statements express how I have understood this law altogether.)

Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012
"... need to protect and safeguard the integrity of computer, computer and communications systems, networks, and databases, and the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and data stored therein, from all forms of misuse, abuse, and illegal access...
... the State shall adopt sufficient powers to effectively prevent and combat such offenses by facilitating their detection, investigation, and prosecution at both domestic and international levels, and by providing arrangements for fast and reliable international cooperation."

I was just reading the start of the full text but I am already finding some parts of the law rather contradicting. It says all online information shall be kept confidential but the government will have sufficient powers to access it to monitor violations? Knowing people from the government, this law can be abused very strongly. I can imagine people's information being retrieved online because a powerful individual wants to do a background check about him. Confidential information can be used in a hundred wrong ways. Honestly, it would be better if the government won't have access to it at all. And to  facilitate their prosecution both domestic and international levels? Really? Do these people need to go to that extra length to catch people who do "wrong" things online? And to be punished with being sent to jail 6-12 years? Feels like killing someone in the real world sounds like a petty crime to me. :/

Moving on, of course illegal hacking is included. Spreading of computer virus is no exception. As per this law, posers and bashers can be put to jail now. Child pornography and cybersex is also included as violating acts. But beyond these eyebrow-raising offenses, the most controversial one is the inclusion of online libel in the list of punishable acts.
SECTION 5: "Other Offenses - a) Any person who willfully abets or aids in the commission of any of the offenses enumerated in this Act shall be held liable."
People who would like/favorite or share/retweet libelous statements could also be punished under this law.

This part of the cybercrime law, I believe, is the most outrageous and deadly that's why people are not really at ease with its implementation. Anyone in power can easily abuse this law to protect personal interests. Even without a temporary restraining order, the court can order the retrieval of traffic data to assist in the investigation of a case. On that note, the law has its disclaimer --
 "Only the origin, dest, route, time, date, size, duration, or type of underlying service, but not content, nor identities could would be retrieved as traffic data. If content is needed, a court warrant is required."
 PNP and NBI will facilitate the investigations for violations of this act. There will be a depositary bank with all the traffic data submitted to court. Also, service providers are required to cooperate and assist law enforcement authorities in the collection or recording of the above-stated information.

An annual budget of 50 million Pesos will be allocated in the implementation of this act.There shall be designated special cybercrime courts manned by specially trained judges to handle cybercrime cases.

Even Filipinos overseas aren't excluded by this law.

SEC. 21. Jurisdiction. — The Regional Trial Court shall have jurisdiction over any violation of the provisions of this Act. including any violation committed by a Filipino national regardless of the place of commission. Jurisdiction shall lie if any of the elements was committed within the Philippines or committed with the use of any computer system wholly or partly situated in the country, or when by such commission any damage is caused to a natural or juridical person who, at the time the offense was committed, was in the Philippines.
Several known local personalities have stated their opposition to the cybercrime law. Even entities outside the country are stating their opinions about this (Forbes, and author Neil Gaiman, to mention a few)

Forbes article about the cybercrime law
GMA News Online also published an interesting article about the flaws of the Cybercrime Law.

As a sign of protest, users changed their profile pictures to a plain black one in Facebook, Twitter, and other sites. 

I can see on what point this law can serve as a means for discipline to "online trolls" but I think the given method of implementation is questionable and goes beyond the necessary, violating human rights in the process. There's a lot to amend on this law to make it fair and acceptable.

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