Philippine Senator Tito Sotto attacks Internet Freedom

Rappler published an entry. In that entry, Senator Tito Sotto alleged he was the first cyber-bullied Senator of the Philippines. In recent days he and his staff have come under fire for his alleged plagiarism of sources in his anti reproductive health bill speech. And ultimately raised that he was for regulating blogging in the Philippines. This means two things. First, it is meant to strike back at this critics, mostly who have voiced their objection online. It also doesn’t hurt that most of those critics of the reproductive health bill, are equally active online. Second, it is a classic case of the filibuster— mean to delay the vote on the reproductive health bill.

In many ways, Sotto is in the position of being a troll— Internet speak for someone who raises inflammatory talk, or injects one in the discussion. An Internet troll gets people rilled up and distracted from the core issue. Sotto seemingly is the real life equivalent of the Internet troll. He seems to be a natural at it, and has singlehandedly done a masterful job at delaying the vote on the Reproductive Health Bill.

The threat of course, of regulating the blogging community has always been a sword hanging over the Online community. It is a euphemism to regulate Internet Freedom. It neither should be taken lightly, nor sitting down. It is an attack on civil liberties. It is an attack on Internet Freedom. Blogging has become a euphemism for speech, for expression, and for assembly because it is so easy to use. Online tools have been useful in many situations, like the Habagat that struck Manila weeks ago. Our online tools can also be used in riots, as alleged in the “Blackberry riots” of London. Like any piece of technology or tool that humans have created, the Internet has been used for both good and evil.

Already in the Philippines a law has been passed by both houses of Congress determining that online libel is legal, and that it is equivalent to libel in real life. Simply put, Online libel is criminal. Not that libel per se is evil, but it has often been used in the Philippines as a weapon to silence critics.

Cyber-bulling is a problem in the Philippines. We’re not talking about some kid in Facebook being attacked by another kid, though that happens too. Trolls gang up and attack people who disagree with their point of view. Like the Tea Party does in real life, they are rapid. And like Fox news, often devoid of real discussion except to hear their own version of reality, and pompous ideas. Yet, their right to speak should be held sacrosanct. They absolutely have the right to assemble— at any place on the Internet and voice their disagreement with Government. These people have done so under the guise of anonymity, fearing reprisal for their outlandish ideas. And their right to anonymity, should similarly be held sacrosanct. Opposition to any idea or government is important in a flourishing democracy. Just as Al-Qaeda is branded an extremist terrorist organization for their militant radical view of Islam, just as the Ku Klux Klan is an extreme, and reactionary Protestant Christian movement, society should not tolerate violence, abuse, and hate. Isn’t that why we have equal protection of the law? We do not tolerate Al-Qaeda. We do not tolerate the Ku Klux Klan. It doesn’t mean that people should be denied the right to speak.

Senator Tito Sotto in his attempt to be framed as hurt dilutes the real people who are hurt, abused, harassed every single day legitimately by cyber-rules. How can he cyber-bullied when his words are protected by his parliamentary right to a privileged speech? How can he be bullied when his right to speak isn’t threatened to be infringe. As Senator, he has the ability to step in front of any podium, and people will hear him speak whether he speaks gibberish or not. As owner of Eat Bulaga— a daily noon time show that has run for decades, he can step in front of the camera and speak. How can one be cyber-bullied when his alleged plagiarism of a speech has reached The Washington Post, when an American blogger accused a Philippine Senator of lifting from her blog?

Senator Sotto’s right to speak, to express has not been infringed. Yet, he is, threatening to take that right, that same freedom accorded every citizen and threatens to regulate bloggers. Every single day, and every single moment someone posts a photo on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on Instagram. Someone “likes” that post or leaves a comment. It is the essence of blogging. So are you going to require ID cards for everyone who wants to get an email address?

Hilary Clinton beautifully, and simply framed the whole idea of Internet Freedom in easily understood words. She said, “The final freedom, one that was probably inherent in what both President and Mrs. Roosevelt thought about and wrote about all those years ago, is one that flows from the four I’ve already mentioned: the freedom to connect – the idea that governments should not prevent people from connecting to the internet, to websites, or to each other. The freedom to connect is like the freedom of assembly, only in cyberspace. It allows individuals to get online, come together, and hopefully cooperate. Once you’re on the internet, you don’t need to be a tycoon or a rock star to have a huge impact on society.”

Of course, Senator Sotto sought to inflame the discussion. To divert the issue from the Reproductive Health Bill, and to delay the vote for as long as possible. It is a simple case of filibuster and one that real people are affected. Who then is the real bully, and the bullied?

Source: xkcd, some rights reserved.

Cocoy (689 Posts)

Cocoy is an Internet entrepreneur, technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter. He publishes a personal blog called The Geeking, a weblog on geekery, pop culture, and sometimes Apple, and technology. He writes for iPadPinas--- a site devoted to all things iPad. Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project. He regularly contributes political commentary at BlogWatch.ph. Cocoy is a founding member of democracy.net.ph, a think tank. Cocoy also helped draft the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom. Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.


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