I just signed the online petition to junk the recently passed Cybercrime Prevention Law of the Philippines. I initially thought I was not sufficiently informed of its controversial provisions to take action. Well, I was not.
I often read about Internet censorship in other places, like Iran and China, and every time I think on how backwards their governance is for not realizing and honoring the Internet for what it is. The Internet is the final bastion of unrestrained freedom of speech and expression in a world constantly awash in a tumult of political and international powers trying to stifle it. The power has shifted from guns and media to information, and true to being frightened, indignant, self-righteous bearers of administrative and executive power, many people in higher positions are aiming to topple it, or at least leash it. And every time I dwell on this I feel slightly fortunate that the Philippines remains free of this ridiculous yoke the old world is trying to strap onto the new. Until now.
The Cybercrime Prevention Law’s provisions pertaining to censorship and criminal persecution of “online libel” is the hacksaw to the still growing Internet culture in the Philippines. A culture that affords its people an escape from the miserable lives their governance is nearly pushing them into, a culture that helps educate and enrich the mind, a culture that gaps geographical boundaries and limitations unlike any before. And while the new law will not forbid any of these, it will take away the freedom of expression that goes hand in hand with them. The law is more than akin to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect the IP Act (PIPA), both of which were slammed worldwide, and rightfully so.
I will not pretend that the various innovations and trends brought about by the Internet are not accompanied by dangers. Indeed, the mere disruption being caused by the web is shaking established paradigms of international industries. And then there are the more alarming facets of the affair – the very offenses that the Cybercrime Prevention Law was originally meant to fight. What the proponents of this law fail to understand, however, is that you do not kill an entire tree to catch the pests thriving within. You do not choke the freedom of speech, expression, and information that comprises the Philippine (and worldwide) Internet scene just to crack down on some of its worst parts. You do not arm such a body as the Supreme Court of the country to rule over what can be said or not.
I wish to give the Philippine government the benefit of the doubt with regard to their actions, however, and not scream “E-Martial Law” – not yet. Sometimes we are simply ignorant. Sometimes we make erroneous decisions. And sometimes we make obvious mistakes and fundamentally unethical actions (such as, say, plagiarism, for instance?) that make us the center of unwanted attention online, which then persuades us to use our power (like, the power of a senator, for example) to implement a means to destroy the machinations of our perceived slight when in fact it was our error to begin with. Yes, I wish to give our general governance the benefit of the doubt and lay it all on ignorance. This isn’t the first time the Philippine administration has been accused of ignorance anyway.
So let’s blame ignorance for a second. Ignorance, for they know not what they do: it does not seem like any of the supporters of the law as well as our president have been keeping abreast of news about the web, particularly about SOPA and PIPA. Ignorance, for they know not what they are trying to stop: the Internet, which is a culmination of digital expression and information that thrives on the right to freedom, even if sometimes the power is misused. Ignorance, for they know not how futile and potentially dangerous the effort is: in the end, I personally suspect that even with this law in effect, the Internet as a medium of free speech, expression, and information cannot be suppressed. We are not a closely guarded populace, not a militaristic junta or a dictatorship. We will find loopholes, cracks within the network of this new law, which from the performance of our law enforcement I expect to be quite numerous. And if by some cruel and ironic jest of fate our freedom online is efficiently gagged and hogtied, why not speak out minds the old-fashioned way? The same way Egypt and Libya and the other countries of the Arab Spring spoke theirs? It will be no surprise that the rest of the world will be with us, if push comes to shove. I cannot imagine a more pathetic reason for a government of supposed “hope,” a government headed by the son of two “heroes,” to flounder.
But I digress. It’s all on ignorance. So let us correct the error. Let’s take this small step forward and sign this online petition. I thought myself not qualified to sign this, as I said before, but I realized that the issue is so fundamental and intuitive that it escapes my understanding how the law was passed with such provisions in the first place. I rarely sign petitions of any kind, but as a person who earns a living through the web, who loves the Internet and what it has become, I wanted and needed to sign my name as a defender of my own freedoms online. To anyone who wishes to use the web the way it was meant to be, to anyone who wants to be free to speak his or her mind online, and to anyone who wishes to correct this error of ignorance (if like me, you can give them the benefit of the doubt), the minute it takes to sign this petition will be well spent. The other minute it takes to spread it to everyone you know, even outside the Philippines to spread awareness, is equally worthwhile.
Junk the Cybercrime Prevention Law of the Philippines. Sign here.
This blog post was originally published on Xeroavitar Tech.