Why President Aquino is wrong on the Cybercrime Law

Press Secretary Edwin Lacierda made clear the palace position. President Aquino is absolutely correct in his position: there should be responsibility in Cyberspace. Hackers like those who deface websites should be brought to justice. And there should be a law to enable it to do so. Government should have the means to attack and defend its cyber-assets. Women who are harassed and victimized on text messages should have the mechanism to see their assailants brought to justice. Child pornographers should be punished. And bloggers? Bloggers who talk without proof, and who cross the line of propriety should be subject to libel laws and take down within the framework of the law.

Section 12 for example says Law enforcement authorities— with due cause— to record traffic by computer systems. You know, IP addresses, hex code. you name it. The law says though that such data would be scrubbed and should be anonymous. And that the burden to do so would be on services providers such as Globe and Smart, for example.

What’s the difference between a service provider scrubbing the data, and a law enforcement official going to a court of law to ask for a warrant and a law enforcement official going to a court of law asking for a warrant and a service provider will comply?

Can you not see that this could be used for a fishing expedition? And do you have any idea how much burden this would be on the service provider? How much money this will cost? How much man hours this will be? And why should the decision to wire tap someone come from the law enforcement, and not justifiable first before the court?

And missed use of devices? I totally understand that it is the right of a manufacturer to protect their product. Wouldn’t the better law be, OK, you can jailbreak your iPhone, or root your android phone— but if you break it, the manufacturer has no liability?

If you’re worried about people rooting their devices so they can access broken software— then that should be written in. That’s a whole different case and a whole different approach.

Also, Cybersex? really? Totally, understand that it is meant to solve the problem of prostitution, but the law doesn’t protect the victims of the crime. The law is written so vaguely that sexting between two consenting adults could constitute as a crime. You know? So why does the government feel like moralizing?

Also, a man and a woman, who filmed their sex life, and somehow that video gets circulated on the Internet without their consent, could technically be charged by Cybersex right? So the IRR is going to magically solve all the vague language?

And Child Pornography? All it says in the law is that one line saying the punishment is increased one level. Great. But you know what? It was already in R.A. 9775. Child pornography on the Internet is already punishable under that law. And a simple amendment to that law wouldn’t have troubled anyone. It feels like an excuse just to put that portion in there.

And what’s with the whole Implementing Rules and Regulations bit? Doesn’t it almost, cross the line of the legislature delegating their legislative powers to the executive? I know it is practice. That’s how it works in the Philippines. The IRR is the operating arm and all that, but Mr. President, the problem in the Philippines doesn’t rest with just corruption. Sometimes the old way of doing things is just plain wrong.

And the online libel clause? The United Nations already said the libel law is excessive. I agree that from the point of view of a writer this law does not add any that no writer in our free press has had to put up with for years.

This law is also silent on any Communications Decency that protects publishers of content from being held responsible for people using their service. The United States for example has a Communications Decency Act, and it sets the rules on blocking of offensive material quite clearly. It says:

Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material

(1) Treatment of publisher or speaker
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

(2) Civil liability
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—

(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; or

(B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).

That law goes on to say:

(d) Obligations of interactive computer service
A provider of interactive computer service shall, at the time of entering an agreement with a customer for the provision of interactive computer service and in a manner deemed appropriate by the provider, notify such customer that parental control protections (such as computer hardware, software, or filtering services) are commercially available that may assist the customer in limiting access to material that is harmful to minors. Such notice shall identify, or provide the customer with access to information identifying, current providers of such protections.

No such protection exists on the Cybercrime Law. In fact, I would venture to say, that it feels the law thinks of all of us as criminals.

As a victim of cyber-attacks, and defamation online myself, Mr. President, I think I know enough of it to say, this Cybercrime Law is not the justice I hope it would be.

I agree with President Aquino that there should be responsibility in cyberspace. There is no disagreement. Freedom is not absolute. I disagree with the idea that the Cybercrime Law is the right way to get to that goal. I have long believed— I’ve been writing about this law since October 2010, that there should be a cybercrime law, but not this kind. It should be a law that protects people. It should be a law that starts with people’s rights. It should be a law that protects those rights, as much as a law that defines what their responsibilities are. We need a well-thought -off law that balances culture, responsibility and rights. RA 10175 (The Cybercrime Law) does not fill that role. It threatens democracy. It should have been vetoed, and rewritten, and not signed into law.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.