Cybercrime Law Loopholes for Bloggers

Tuesday, October 02, 2012 Stef dela Cruz 9 Comments

Is it the end of an era of online freedom? With the Cybercrime Law to be enacted tomorrow, the Philippines is in grieving. We are about to lose the right to express ourselves freely online, thanks to the libel provision of the Philippine Cybercrime Law that can put as at risk for a 12-year jail sentence.

Yes, even liking or sharing a Facebook photo that is considered libelous can put any Filipino in jail for more than a decade. Tweeting or posting status updates on Facebook about politicians, for instance, can be considered libelous – EVEN IF your statements are true. Take note: even stating the truth does not exempt you from libel.

Cybercrime Law

I am not an expert on Philippine law. But I am very familiar with the Filipino spirit. I know that Filipinos are crafty enough to find all the possible loopholes of the rather vague yet all-encompassing libel provision of the Cybercrime law in the Philippines (which, apparently, is considered a violation of basic human rights by none other than the United Nations).

Without further ado, I would like to present to you some of the possible loopholes of the Cybercrime Law. This might help bloggers and members of the media who have websites in their desire to publish the truth.

Cybercrime Law: 5 Loopholes for Bloggers

If you don’t want to be accused of online libel, don’t fret. Despite the Cybercrime Law being signed and enacted in the Philippines, there are things you can do to ensure you don’t break the law while still practicing your basic rights to freedom of speech and expression.

  • You can’t go to jail for libel if you are a minor. In other words, if you happen to be a minor who happens to be an opinionated blogger, then don’t worry; you won’t be put in jail for 12 years. I wonder, how many bloggers will make fake accounts on Twitter and Facebook using 12-year-old personas?
  • To avoid libel, try using irony in your blogs. But I would like to clarify before I go on. As much as Alanis Morissette’s song entitled “Ironic” was such a big hit, it was not the correct interpretation of irony. Irony is when what you say is the exact opposite of what you mean. For instance, if you tell your enemy he is the best person in the world, you are being ironic. To make sure you don’t break the libel provision of the Cybercrime Law, say the exact opposite of your sentiments. Hey, nobody can sue you for libel if your actual words are flowery and positive. Compliments, whether meant or not, are never libelous.
    UPDATE: I stand corrected. According to this article, irony or sarcasm doesn’t exempt you. So I guess even your nice statements about your enemies will be subject to a lot of interpretation from now on. Great. I feel like I’m back in the Dark Ages.
  • To avoid libel, remember that the same statements considered libelous online are not necessarily libelous when published in print or shown on TV. For instance, making a complaint against a politician or a police officer - if made online - might be considered libelous. But we see many of our impoverished brothers and sisters making complaints against corrupt officials on television. Hey, have you noticed they’re not being charged for libel? And I wonder, if you post that video on YouTube then share it on Facebook or Twitter, could it be something the law will not consider as libel? Imagine the legal inconsistency if the Cybcercrime Law considers you - the person who shared the video - a criminal IF the law does not consider the complainant on television as a criminal as well. Ah, the Cybercrime Law is so vague… and maybe you can use that to make sure you remain a law-abiding citizen, regardless of whether or not you agree with the law.
  • Ask honest questions instead of making conclusions. Don’t say a politician is corrupt. Instead, ask if the evidence is enough to get him sued for corruption. For instance, as a blogger, I would like to ask, is the Cybercrime Law really unconstitutional? Is it a law that violates our right to freedom of speech? Is it something that will get the Philippines penalized by the United Nations? Hey, I’m just asking. There’s no libel here, yes?
  • Censor your own words. You can’t be sued for libel if you don’t say anything that can incriminate you. Let me show you an example: “I think the Cybercrime Law is *censored*. It makes Filipinos look *censored*. I believe the politicians who are behind it are pure *censored* and deserve to go to *censored*.” After all, you can go to jail for what you say – not for what you DON’T say.

***Disclaimer: follow the above tips at your own risk. It’s best to consult a lawyer before dancing on political glass shards.

I still expect many Filipinos to be too afraid to like or even share libelous photos and status updates. For instances, the Anti-Epal movement just might be considered libelous – and our friends on Facebook might no longer share pictures of “epal” politicians.

But many Filipino netizens will remain indignant. They cannot be silenced if they know they are fighting for their basic rights. So many wars have been waged in the pursuit of freedom. Do not assume the Filipinos are not willing to take up arms, figuratively or otherwise, to fight for online freedom.

Many others have blacked out their profile photos on Facebook as a sign of protest against the Cybercrime Law. Aside from doing the same, we can all take one step further by sharing blogs from brave bloggers who dare fight for their right to speak up online!

Share this post on Facebook – tell your friends about the libel provision of the Cybercrime Law – and don’t forget the loopholes, too! Spread awareness; do your part to fight for Philippine freedom. Smile  I remember William Wallace – you might know him as “Braveheart” – when he screamed out, “Freedom!!!” My sentiments exactly. Get in touch with me on Twitter and Facebook if you have ideas on how to be a law-abiding citizen who nevertheless opposes the Cybercrime Law.

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She maintains a health column in Health.Care Magazine and a cat welfare column in The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene. Add her to your circles.

9 comments:

  1. Great suggestions! I'm using drawings to get around it. :D
    http://fabafter40.tumblr.com/post/32768433698/blog-guide

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  2. Nice, Chinie! I reblogged your Tumblr post. So creative. Hm, I don't know what the law says about picture stories. Are they still covered by the libel law? Hehe! But I agree; with the libel provision in tow, we can't even voice out negative criticisms anymore, hence our protest. Good luck to us!

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  3. While its good to know that there are loop holes in this crazy law, however in my case i'd still say it as real as possible. Thing is, if you know that what you are saying is the truth then you have nothing to fear. The moment that they try to suppress you for such they've already violated the Bill of Rights Article III of the Philippine Constitution. Again, this only applies if that person would say/post in either twitter / facebook or any social media outlet the truth itself.

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  4. "Thing is, if you know that what you are saying is the truth then you have nothing to fear." -- Sadly, dear friend, this is no longer true. We have everything to fear. All the criticisms we air online, regardless of the truth behind them, can be considered cyber-libel.

    But the fight continues for freedom. Therein lies the promise of hope. :)

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  5. "Interestingly, the Supreme Court of the Philippines has also ruled that even ironic, suggestive, or metaphorical language could be considered libelous. You don’t have to directly call someone a liar and a thief to get sued for libel. It’s enough to suggest it or state it sarcastically—as long as you do so in a public manner like posting on the Internet." - from Ramil Digal Gulle's opinion piece

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  6. Correct. Thus my update in the irony tip in this blog post.

    I'm wondering what would happen if the accused says he's not being ironic. I mean, what if you praise a politician and he claims you are being sarcastic even if you're not? Doom. Hehehe.

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  7. So it all ends up on how our statements are interpreted.

    Do you know who's burden it is to prove otherwise? I mean, if one accuses me of implying something else ...

    Really smart lawyers would be the best thing to have right now, but only the affluent would have the luxury to get the best lawyers, so doom to the rest who could only go to PAO.

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  8. Pinoytekkie, it's scary when you think it might be up to a lawyer to save your neck, huh? Especially when you can't afford a really good one. Unfortunately, that's the rule of thumb for many Filipinos.

    Too much wiggle room in that law. It's time to have it amended. And SOON.

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  9. Considering that more than a million women and almost 400,000 men are stalked annually, it follows that cyber-stalking is following suit.

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