Philippine cybercrime law takes effect amid protests

 
A man looks at a facebook account in Manila on 29 September, 2012 Under the new act, someone found guilty of libellous comments online could be fined or jailed

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A controversial law targeting cybercrime in the Philippines has come into effect, fuelling protests by citizens and media groups fearing censorship.

The new law, called the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, was signed by the president on 12 September.

It is intended to prevent cybersex, online child pornography, identity theft and spamming, officials say.

But it also makes libel a cybercrime punishable by up to 12 years in jail.

The act was enacted by congress "to address legitimate concerns" about criminal and abusive behaviour online, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement on Wednesday.

"Questions have been raised about the constitutionality of certain provisions of the act. We recognise and respect efforts not only to raise these issues in court, but to propose amendments to the law in accordance with constitutional processes," he said.

The act took effect despite the protests by those who oppose the law.

At least eight petitions from various groups challenging its constitutionality have been filed with the highest court in the Philippines, local media report.

Anonymous activists have hacked into government websites, journalists have held rallies and many Facebook users have replaced their profile picture with a blank screen, says the BBC's Kate McGeown in Manila.

Protesters say the legislation could be used to target government critics and crack down on freedom of speech.

Under the new act, a person found guilty of libellous comments online, including comments made on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter or blogs, could be fined or jailed.

Government officials will also have new powers to search and seize data from people's online accounts, says our correspondent.

The US-based Human Rights Watch said that the law would harm free speech in a statement last week.

"The cybercrime law needs to be repealed or replaced," said the group's Asia director, Brad Adams.

"It violates Filipinos' rights to free expression and it is wholly incompatible with the Philippine government's obligations under international law."

 

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 25.

    The law may have come about to address legitimate concerns, but it absolutely WILL be abused in a country where police, lawyers and judges can be very easily bought off. What do you expect of a country where convicted criminals can be re-elected? A few families have a strangle hold on busuness and politics in Philippines. That hold needs to be broken.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 24.

    Is this the same Philippines whose minister of justice proclaimed a year ago that there would be no laws made to cover cybercrime because, "judges could not be expected to know about computer technology."? Well! Well!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 23.

    Any website that is published should be regulated with the same laws as a newspaper that is published, in my humble opinion.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 22.

    Meanwhile, the country fails to provide even the most basic needs like food and shelter to 70% of the population. Why should this law even have been passed amidst this background? Was this even based on public opinion? Informed this sprouted from a senator plagiarising. Proven but not found guilty. A personal vendetta? Questions my country will always fail to answer to its own people. Typical.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 21.

    Regardless of the rights and wrongs of this specific legislation, the free speech at all costs brigade seem to think it's ok to do things on the internet that they wouldn't get away with in face to face everyday situations. Freedom of speech is not a charter for illegal defamation or harassment if you find yourself the victim of such a crime don't expect much help sorting it out

 

Comments 5 of 25

 

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