Philippines proposed new cybercrime law that could see Netizens sentenced to 12 years in jail for posting defamatory comments on Facebook or Twitter is generating outrage among netizens and rights groups within the country. According to the bill which I have an online copy, the main aim of the cybercrime law is to fight online pornography, hacking, identity theft and spamming in the largely conservative Catholic nation amid police complaints they lack the legal tools to stamp out internet crime that has been thriving for the past few years. There is also a provision that puts the country’s criminal libel law into force in cyberspace, except that the penalties for Internet defamation are much tougher compared with traditional media like Newspapers.The law allows authorities to collect data from personal user accounts on social media and listen in on voice or video applications, such as Skype, without a warrant or any legal authorization. For example,Netizens re-tweeting and re-posting libelous material on social media platform like Tweeter and Facebook respectively could bear the full force of the law in country known for its draconian laws I feel that not everyone is an expert on what constitutes libel in Philippines.
Anyone else who posts a libelous comment faces a maximum prison term of 12 years and a fine of one million pesos equivalent to $24,000 at the current exchange rate.Philippines has one of the world’s highest per capita rates of Facebook and Twitter users and this law will definitely bring down those numbers. This is because anybody using popular social networks or who publishes online is now at risk of a long prison term should a reader including government officials bring a libel charge. According to official 2011 statistics, a third of the Philippines’ nearly 100 million people use the Internet, with 96 percent them on Facebook. For those unaware, in Philippines it will be easy without a clear definition of the crime of libel and the persons liable, virtually any person could be charged with a crime even if it is just re-tweet or comment on an online post.Personally, I do not agree with the government of Philippines that the Cybercrime Act sought to attach responsibilities in cyberspace and freedom of expression is always recognized but freedom of expression is not absolute.The law should be refined because it throws Netizens in Philippines back to the dark ages of dictatorial regimes.The government should allow people and organizations to submit their concerns to an independent experts panel that will polish specific definitions of the law, such as who may or may not be prosecuted.