Online plea to junk Anti-Cybercrime Law revived

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 18 2014 12:19 PM | Updated as of Feb 18 2014 08:19 PM

MANILA - An online petition to junk the Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 has again gained traction amid reports that the Supreme Court will declare several of the law's provisions as constitutional.

A petition in Change.org seeking to junk the Cybercrime Prevention Law has been signed by 77,885 supporters as of posting.

Kabataan party-list group also called on netizens to change their profile pictures on Facebook to black in protest of the reported turnout at the SC.

The Change.org petition said the Cybercrime Prevention Law "poses serious threats to Internet freedom, the right to privacy and other essential civil liberties including the freedom of speech, expression, and the press."

It branded the measure as an "online censorship law" after inserting provisions regarding online libel and sections on data collection.

"The decriminalization of libel has been a longstanding legal battle in the Philippines, and the inclusion of online libel is a grave backward step. For years, various individuals have abused libel, a criminal offense in the country, to harass journalists, whistleblowers, and ordinary citizens," the petition read.

"With the inclusion of online libel, we fear that all information we exchange in the Internet, even own personal communications, might be sanctioned and become grounds for criminal offenses," it added.

A source from the Supreme Court earlier said the SC magistrates have already declared the provision on Internet libel as constitutional.

The high tribunal also reportedly upheld the following offenses that Republic Act No. 10175 deems punishable:

Section 4 (a) (1) access to the whole or any part of a computer system without right;

Section 4 (a) (3) or data interference;

Section 4 (a) (6) or cybersquatting;

Section 4 (b) (3) identity theft; and

Section 4 (c) cybersex, child pornography and Internet libel.

The online petition also questioned Section 19 of the Cybercrime Prevention Law "which effectively makes the Department of Justice an all-encompassing Internet superpower."

Section 19 of RA 10175 states: "When a computer data is prima facie found to be in violation of the provisions of this Act, the DOJ shall issue an order to restrict or block access to such computer data"

The online petition said that under such provision, the DOJ can take down websites that it suspects – upon initial observation – to be violating RA 10175.

It said the law will have a "chilling impact" to bloggers, online journalists, advocacy groups and normal netizens, "as any website can be shut down with accusations of infringement without due process."

"It is also alarming that the new law was seemingly drafted with the mindset that crimes committed online is graver than those committed in the real world. Due to the vague provisions in RA 10175, even commenters and those that retweet libelous materials can also be incriminated," it said.

Meanwhile, a group of computer professionals and privacy advocates is protesting the possible increase in online surveillance as the Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of RA 10175.

Gladys Regalado, Deputy National Coordinator of the Computer Professionals' Union (CPU), said the people have long expressed its verdict to junk the cybercrime law.

"Cybercrime Law looks more like a recipe for a surveillance society rather than an instrument to fight so-called cybercrimes. With the powers to collect 'real-time traffic data' the BS Aquino regime is willing to sacrifice the right to privacy of its citizens in pursuit of criminals that are already covered by existing laws," she said.