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Critics Say New Law In The Philippines Threatens Internet Freedom; Could People Be Thrown In Jail Fo
October 2, 2012
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In the ongoing battle over internet freedom, the people of the Philippines could be in for quite a crackdown.

The country's government has passed a new law that blurs the line of what is considered acceptable and what could lead to jail time.

It's called the "Cybercrime Prevention Act," which lays out new online crimes including identity theft, hacking, pornography, and spamming.

Trouble is, it's really a sort of omnibus bill that gives authorities the power to apply the country's strict libel laws to cyberspace.

Not only that, but there are fears authorities could shut down any website, collect people's personal information, or a listen in on a conversation on Skype (for example) without a warrant.

So, let's say you're in the Philippines, you're on Facebook and you click "Like" on a comment or you decide to "Share" it. Under the law, if that comment is "defamatory," you could get up to 12 years in jail.

Critics make the point that not everyone is an expert on what constitutes libel. And they say the definition of libel is so ambiguous, it's not clear who's responsible: the person who created the post? The people who share it? The people who Tweet it?

As it stands, anybody posting material that another user or a government official considers libellous could face penalties.

Even a simple re-Tweet or a comment, share, or "Like" on Facebook could land someone in trouble, for effectively agreeing with the libellous post.

As Filipino Senator Teofisto Guingona III told CBS News, under this law "even Mark Zuckerberg can be charged with cyber-libel." The Senator voted against the bill.

The Philippines is a rather Conservative country. But according to industry figures, more than a quarter of the people there are on Facebook and roughly ten per cent are on Twitter, placing the Philippines among the world's top 10 nations using social media.

People inside and outside the Philippines are up in arms: Human Rights Watch says the law threatens freedom of expression. A group calling itself 'Anonymous Philippines' has hacked into and defaced government websites. And according to the Associated Press, "five petitions claiming the law is unconstitutional have been filed with the Supreme Court."

Filipinos on Facebook have even started blacking out their profile photos in protest and putting '[STATUS BLOCKED] (RA NO 10175)' as their status. (RA stands for Republic Act No. 10175, the official name for the Cybercrime Prevention Act.)

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