With the passage of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 this week, Kabataan Partylist representative Raymond Palatino reiterated the dangers that the new legislation might post to Internet freedom.
?During the House deliberations on this law, I opposed the inclusion of cyberthreats and cyberdefamation in the new law. With their inclusion, we have in effect, legislated a law for online libel which is a step backward in our long-term aim of decriminalizing libel,? Palatino said.
The cybercrime law is supposed to be the legal instrument of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and other agencies in running after hackers, malicious spam and virus senders, cybersex operators, and hi-tech gangs that engage in phishing, credit card fraud, among others.
?But the inclusion of cyberthreat and cyberdefamation in the list of dangerous cybercrimes would fundamentally affect and alter the implementation of the law,? Palatino said.
The youth solon cited Sen. Vicente ?Tito? Sotto III?s recent statement wherein the senator said the new Cybercrime Law may be used to penalize users who post defamatory messages against him online.
?Under this law, politicians can easily file charges against ?hostile and combative? critics and witnesses by claiming that virtual protesters have threatened their life and property. Censorship will lead to repression once an activist or reform advocate has been labeled a cybercriminal,? Palatino said.
?Woe to the NBI agent and DOJ prosecutor who will be swamped with cybercrime cases filed by showbiz actors, politicians, business tycoons, and other untouchables who want to punish their online critics. Instead of dealing with cyberwarfare, our agents will be investigating online libel,? the youth solon added.
?One of the benefits of the Internet is that it provides anonymity to individuals, whistleblowers, truth crusaders, democracy activists, and human rights workers who wish to protect their identities. But the Philippine anti-cybercrime law will empower authorities to compel webmasters and web companies to reveal the names of their anonymous users accused of cyberthreat and cyberdefamation,? he explained.
Palatino also warned that the new law may violate the people?s right to privacy since it empowers the government to access the private accounts and monitor activities of persons suspected of committing cybercrimes.
?Despite the court order requirement in the law, I still fear that the privacy of individuals will be violated. Will authorities specify the particular file folder to be collected or will they simply download all computer data?? he asked.
?There are non-negotiables in drafting Internet policies. The main concern should be the protection of Internet users. Legislation should maintain the openness or the free, public character of the Internet. There must be transparency and law enforcers must be accountable for their actions. National regulation is futile since cybercrimes operate globally and virtually,? Palatino said.