Kabataan Partylist representative Raymond Palatino files their vision of Internet Freedom in the Philippine House of Representatives. It is a first step in the ongoing debate of Internet Freedom, Cybercrime, and the very state of Internet Freedom in the Philippines.
Not surprisingly, the vision that Kabataan Partylist is highlighting is one narrowed to the relationship of the user to local Internet Service Providers. This isn’t surprising, given the present state of the Internet in the Philippines, and the push of Kabataan Partylist and similar organization for “better internet”. So, this isn’t surprising, given the Kabataan Partylist’s ideology. This is the polar opposite of the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act.
So how does this vision of the Kabataan Partylist begin?
It starts off with a definition of what they believe Internet is. “Internet,” Kabataan Partylist writes, “refers collectively to the myriad of computers and telecommunications facilities, including equipment, and operating software which comprise the interconnected worldwide network of networks that employ the transmission control protocol or internet protocol, or any predecessor or successor protocols to such protocol to communicate information of all kinds by wire, radio, or other electronic media.”
It seems to suffer from an identity crisis, encompassing even the data stored on “electronic media” like hard drives, flash drives, usb flash drives, and broadcast, which refer to “wire”, and “radio”. Attempting to be clever, but muddling the issue of what the Internet is.
I asked this once of Senator Ed Angara on twitter, why his definitions in the Cybercrime law were far from the dictionary definitions. What I meant to say, far from the definitions that normal people— society in general say it is. And I got something like the definition in law is different, because it is. Why don’t lawmakers stick to the definitions that Industry experts have come to agree on already? Why diverge? Why muddle?
In Kabataan Partylist’s defense, they do mention TCP/IP or the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol that drives the Internet, which is more than what other similar initiatives like the Cybercrime Prevention Act says it is, which co-incidently mentions the Internet only twice, and has not defined what it means. Another example, under the 14th Congress, Senator Trillanes filed Senate Bill 2145: “The Telecommunications Convergence Act of the Philippines,” and it reached committee level.
The Kabataan Partylist goes on to define what Internet Access is. They mean how users connect to the internet through a “computer with a modem”, and using “common methods of Internet access such as dial-up, landline, T-lines, WiFi, satellite, cell phones, and similar technologies”.
Truth be told I remembered this entry from @franky on Facebook. I am uncertain if the post is public, but he was referring to Commission on Election resolution on online advertising by politicians, and he wrote: “Another example of not understanding how the internet works.”
Haven’t you noticed that more, and more people are connecting to the Internet using Post-PC devices? Smartphones and tablets, and to limit “Internet access” to “computer with a modem”, and to differentiate “cellphones” from computers is a very limited understanding of what this is all about. I fear that this bill, should it become law will be obsolete even before it has an opportunity to work.
The Kabataan Partylist vision of Internet Freedom can be summed up as an “Internet Service Contract Act”.
The Universal Access to the Internet, Rights Rights of Internet Users, provisions for instance, makes one wonder if we’re not reading that this is an “Internet Service Contract Act”, and not really, one on Internet Freedom. The Kabataan Partylist vision for example is silent on the Rooting and Jailbreaking.
Leonardo da Vinci, Edison, Henry Ford, and Woz have one thing in common. They all had to scratch an itch. They all tinkered, and at the heart of the hacker ethos that’s what it is. Hackers aren’t the lawless individuals media often portrays them to be. Hackers are curiosity unbridled that you go and set out to explore— to tinker— to ask, “what if?”
What has this got to do with the Internet, and the whole notion of Internet Freedom? At the core of what the Internet is— is this hacker philosophy. Putting all these pieces together makes the Internet work, and at the heart of that is that tinkering— developer mentality. Without it, this whole Internet, this whole “rebellion”, and “democratization” of information, technology and basically just about everything will not have come to be real. The Kabataan Partylist version of Internet Freedom is silent on this. I think it is fundamentally important that rooting, and jailbreaking are fundamental rights that ought to be recognized just as network neutrality— that data be seen equally be recognized because this spurs innovation.
The Kabataan Partylist bill is the Cybercrime Prevention Act all over again— but in this case, the polar opposite. Where the Philippine Cybercrime Prevention Act stands is the government and law enforcement vision of the Internet. Which, naturally, means they want the maximum ability to do their jobs. Take down clauses, cybersex ideology, and in my opinion— “draconian powers” are natural byproducts of being in the other side of the fence.
The latest Distributed Denial of Service attacks, defacement of websites are just some of the things that make people seethe. It isn’t helping the cause to achieve Internet Freedom in the Philippines. In fact, it is doing quite the opposite. It is making it harder to get people who don’t know to understand what this is all about. When a gun is pointed to your head, or when the voices are screaming, the natural reaction is to scream back. Let me tell you that government isn’t too pleased with attacks. People rarely listen when all they can see are guns, and screaming. So that’s the other good thing about the Kabataan Partylist coming out with their idea of what Internet Freedom is. So a real debate can happen. We can see people’s ideas and not ruckus. This is what an informed democracy is about. The people talk, and hash out our differences like adults. We could all use a little emotional quotient, as much as we have an intelligent quotient.
We all want Internet in the Philippines to be blazing fast. How many times have we heard ourselves say that downloads are too slow? You know, just to get that deck that’s urgently needed? Let’s not even talk about how much video on the Internet buffers or how productivity is affected because of slow internet. The Internet is more than that. How to achieve faster downloads requires more than the rights to get online, or to have faster speeds. That’s the effect. That’s the endgame, how to get there means something else. It is, in my humble opinion important to get the fundamentals correctly.
It is an interesting first step that Kabataan Partylist has in fact written their view of what the Internet is. In fact, it is laudable first step. It is a sign that there is at least some attempt in Congress to think about this. What saddens me is that this is the Cybercrime Prevention Act all over again. It is a shallow piece that looks at it from one point of view, just like the Government thinks about it in their point of view. Like the Cybercrime Prevention Act, it does fall short of what actually needs to be done. The Kabataan Partylist mean well— I mean how can you not mean well, if you only want good Internet for all? The Cybercrime Prevention Act also means well. It meant to go after the bad guys that in the government’s and the law enforcement point of view, they can’t. I like to think that none of these approaches are malicious, nor foolhardy. In my humble opinion, both views represent the poles of what ordinary people think of the Internet. I hope that experts in the field can come up and advice all these people of what should be done. What limits and powers there ought to be. This is still a laudable first step in the process of understanding, and a welcome part of the ongoing debate. At least, they are trying. I hope that everyone can come together— all spectrum— to have real governance. There is much to bridge in the gap of intelligence, and understanding, and I hope that people and groups can come out and teach.
It is in my belief that the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom that Senator Santiago filed represents the end goal of these two distinct points of view. It balances some of the rights— and adds more to the rights that the Kabataan Partylist want, at the same time, the MCPIF addresses the need of government to have some teeth. What’s more, it is my humble opinion that the MCPIF goes beyond both measures as it seeks to balance rights, governance, development and security.
(Disclosure: the author is a founding member of Democracy.Net.PH, and he helped draft the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom with fellow members).