Tonight a group of concerned Filipinos bumped heads to discuss the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. We met online via Google+ Hangouts, and the video archive is posted here. Present were lawyers, businessmen, journalists, company employees — netizens all. And those who couldn’t make it to the roundtable discussion monitored the feed on Twitter via the #cybercrimelaw hashtag, and sent in their questions as well.
It was an eye-opener for me, especially the part when Atty. JJ Disini explained that libelous comments posted on a moderated forum (blog, bulletin board) can result in the owner of the forum being liable for libel as well.
To me, this means that under RA10175 there is intermediary liability!
At one point during the roundtable, I tried to bring to everyone’s attention the experience of our Southeast Asian neighbors, especially Thailand with their repressive Computer Crime Act and lèse majesté laws. One of the roundtable participants said that this couldn’t happen in the Philippines because Thailand had a king and we had an elected president. He had previously claimed that our RA10175 experience was unique in the region.
The form of government is immaterial. Thailand is, in fact, a constitutional monarchy (it is not the Thai king who rules the land). They have a constitution where freedom of expression is enshrined, but is not respected by Thai authorities who silence dissent using the Computer Crime Act, which is very akin to RA10175.
We may not have a law that bars us from ever saying anything negative about our president, but some of the provisions of RA10175 do open up avenues for repression and loss of freedom.
This won’t be the last roundtable discussion on the cybercrime law. I hope in the following sessions, we’ll have more thoughtful participation as we had tonight.