The lower house recently announced that they have passed the CyberCrime Bill. It is the House version of the Angara bill that seeks to define what crimes are on Cyberspace. It sought, among others to define online defamation.
I have long been in opposition to this bill. I think it is a mistake to pass a bill so badly written and so blind to what the future needs, and what it will take to fight transnational crime, and to arm the Philippines to deal with the threats that face us in a 21st Century world.
Cyberspace is a battle ground, and nations and corporations around the world are fast recognizing that it is a theater of war. At the same time, there is a clear and present danger to Filipino women and children when they become victims because of the technologies that make our lives much easier.
Then there is the case of online defamation. The provision of the bill seek to define defamation in the same term as what the philippines call defamation in the “real world”, for lack of a better term.
It wasn’t that there was no libel online existing today. There is. Libel exists right now. So what we say and do on cyberspace is subject to libel. So people publishing online are subject to libel laws in the Philippines. A tweet could be subject to libel. A Facebook status is subject to libel. An interesting question would have been is— what’s the difference of a public status and a private one? What is the difference of a private status published to 5 people, and a status published to a thousand followers and retweeted across the world?
Is the weight different?
Online defamation as defined by the Philippine cybercrime bill is silent on it.
How can we have laws written and interpreted by men who have no idea what culture exist on cyberspace?
Then again, presently there have been numerous cases of Big Bad Bloggers, trolls, and whatnut. What happens when you become the subject of these attacks? How do you defend, or seek a reprieve of grievance? These are many questions that I think should be subject of online defamation.
Yada yada yada.
Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here. This bill will most likely pass. The house has passed it on third reading and soon it will find itself on the President’s desk for signing. Yes, we could petition the president to veto. But how can a president veto? How do we convince a President that this bill is garbage? That it does not help build a future?
I believe the Philippine CyberCrime Bill as it is currently crafted is garbage. Writing a counter bill would have been nice to show what could be a better alternative. In my arrogance, I already started on it, as a few friends to whom I showed a draft to could attest. I stopped. I realized that maybe this is something a whole community should come together for. That, and also life got in the way. I think our online community wasn’t ready to do so anyway— to come together and find a common ground. So now, for good or ill, the CyberCrime bill will pass. It will become law, and the Philippine online community, fragmented, and rowdy as it is would just have to live with it. The CyberCrime law will be a testament that at this time, we failed to come together as we did during other instances. Maybe this is tough love our community needs.