Are you a cyber criminal?

September 23, 2009

The broad definitions of terms such as “cyber-crime”, “cyber-sex” etc., as well as the loose argument sand principles of “punishable acts” may be used to wrongfully trample upon, disregard and/or discount the inherent rights of citizens to freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of the press (for online media entities).

Section 4.C.1(b) stipulates that it shall be unlawful to record “private acts, including but not limited to sexual acts, without the consent of all parties to the said acts or disseminating any such recording by any electronic means with or without the consent of all parties to the said acts.” The vague, catch-all phrase “including but not limited to” endangers, wittingly or unwittingly, even political issues or matters of public interest, of acts by public officials. It endangers, for example, the freedom of investigative news reports from exposing acts by public officials and may serve as a convenient excuse for officials to escape accountability.

Section 4.C.3 stipulating that “the transmission of commercial electronic communication with the use of computer system which seek to advertise, sell, or offer for sale products and services are prohibited” may be used to misconstrue the practice of placing online ads, self-promotion of products or websites and/or the use of the Internet to advertise events, personalities, causes and such even through emails, personal or private websites and/or free social networking sites such as Facebook, Multiply and Twitter.

It is also disturbing that the bill does not clearly state but merely imply the inclusion of mobile phones, iPods, MP3 players and other electronic devices. These should be clearly affirmed as their inclusion would undeniably further broaden the scope and effect of the proposals not only to Internet users but also to ordinary citizens in general.

There is currently a bill pending in the 14th Congress seeking to define cybercrime and provide for its prevention and the imposition of penalties therefor. The bill, House Bill 6794, is a consolidation of eight different House Bills filed by different members of the House of Representatives with regard to different forms of cybercrimes, including those with reference to cyber-sex, cyber-prostitution and child pornography.

The bill has some positive points:

It recognizes Internet usage as a positive development in technology, that it has become a way of life in almost all government, corporate and even personal operations, functions and communications.

It recognizes the necessity to come up with legislation to “protect the right to privacy” of Internet users and cyber citizens, particularly against phishing and spamming.

It is an effort to instill into the Internet somehow a “code of ethics,” or standards for “correct and responsible usage” as is the practice being followed and abided by users of other medium as dictated by law or community-accepted values.

However, some proposals may be deemed problematic, either in premise or presentation.

Kabataan Partylist, through this blog site, would like to consult you, Filipino ‘netizens’, on your comments and suggestions with regard to the bill, before Congress passes it on second reading, and eventually resolves to legislate it into law. The text of the bill may be read here.