Last Wednesday a new law went into effect in the Philippines that may make what we say in blogs, e-mails, social media and Internet voice services a serious crime with heavy penalties. Young people across the country went on the offensive Tuesday blacking out their Facebook profiles, marching on the supreme court and in some cases purposely infecting and crashing government computers. They may have been too young to remember but they compared the current government to that of the late dictator/strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
This law seems to usurp all provisions of the 1987 constitution guaranteeing free speech. Media's take on the cyber-law is as follows:
Under the new law, Filipinos will face sentences of up to 12 years in prison and a fine of one million pesos ($24,000) for posting comments on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, if those comments are deemed defamatory by local authorities. About one third of the country's 100 million people use the Internet, with nearly 96 percent of them on Facebook. With the new law, authorities will have the power to collect data from personal social media accounts and listen into conversations on Internet voice services, such as Skype. The United Nations Human Rights Council has described the existing criminal libel law as "draconian" and "excessive."
My daughter claims that using torrents and downloading MP3's are now illegal. She was plugged into the collective-cyber-protest action on Tuesday. It was a nice change from her usual preoccupation with boy bands and gangnam style. So much of our population is under 20 and when they flex their text and tweet muscles they feel their combined, concerted outrage. Filipino kids Tuesday night were giddy with the rush of power that youthful political solidarity provides. Sometimes only youth can see what conceited outrages can be perpetrated by politicians on the citizens they claim to represent. Go kids. You rock! Don't back down.