The Philippines recently passed a cybercrime law that sparked controversy among freedom of speech promoters due to its broad approach to what might constitute online libel, according to Yahoo! News.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 adopted by the Congress of Philippines aims to â€œdefine cybercrime, provide for the prevention, investigation, suppression and the imposition of penalties therefore and for other purposesâ€ and lists punishable acts, including cyber-squatting, cybersex, child pornography and spamming. The item that raised most concerns and set online activists raging governs libel â€œ[â€¦] committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future,â€ which is punishable by fines or prison time.
“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,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.
â€œNo government entity has moved to deprive anyone of access to the Internet or to suppress civil liberties as exercised online,â€ he said. â€œWe call on critics of the Cybercrime Act to speak out against online vandalism and bullying with as much vigor and passion as they have expressed in their objections to certain provisions of this law.â€
Filipino protesters ring alarm bells against the criminalization of libel brought about by the new act. â€œA Cybercrime Prevention Act is necessary, but must not be oppressive,â€ said Senator Teofisto Guingona III.
â€œIn an age when decriminalization of libel is the trend, this law makes a fatal step back, toward the vault of archaic policies that cannot be made to apply to the modern man operating in a modern world.â€
International independent defenders of human rights have joined online dissenters. â€œThe cybercrime law needs to be repealed or replaced,â€ said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. â€œIt violates Filipinosâ€™ rights to free expression and it is wholly incompatible with the Philippine governmentâ€™s obligations under international law.â€
If no repeal is sought, the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 comes into force today.