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October 3, 2012

Philippines introduces stringent cybercrime law

People could be jailed for 12 years for infringing the new law

By CBR Staff Writer

The Philippine government has passed the new Cybercrime Prevention Act amid protests by people and media groups fearing censorship.

The new law was enacted to prevent online child pornography, cybersex, identity theft and spamming, that follow police complaints that they were deficient of the legal means to tackle them.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that the new law was enacted to address legitimate concerns about criminal behavior on the Internet and the effects of abusive behavior.

"Questions have been raised about the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Act. We recognize and respect efforts not only to raise these issues in court, but to propose amendments to the law in accordance with constitutional processes," Lacierda said.

The move follows events that include hacking of government websites by unidentified activists, rallies being held by journalists and several Facebook users have swapped their profile picture with a blank screen.

The new law could see people in Philippines jailed for 12 years or fined for posting libellous comments on social networks including Facebook or Twitter.

Philippines’ cybercrime act also offers powers to authorities to collect information from personal user accounts on social media and overhear on voice/video applications, including Skype.

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"We would therefore like to point out that no government entity has moved to deprive anyone of access to the Internet or to suppress civil liberties as exercised online," Lacierda said.

"In fact what has taken place is that hackers who claim to be aligned with critics of the Cybercrime Act are the ones who have engaged in online vandalism, depriving the broader public of access to much needed government information and services online."

However, US-based Human Rights Watch said that the new law would increase punishments for criminal libel and offers excessive powers to authorities to pack up websites and examine online information.

Human Rights Watch Asia director Brad Adams said the cybercrime law needs to be repealed or replaced.

"It violates Filipinos’ rights to free expression and it is wholly incompatible with the Philippine government’s obligations under international law."

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