Anti-Cyber Crime Law–Nothing else new about Libel except the use of Computer

I have read several negative feedback about “libel” in the new anti-cyber crime law–RA 10175 (Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012) which was signed into law recently by President Aquino. But as i go over with the provisions of the new law, there’s nothing new about libel except the addition of the use of computer in the commission of libel.

RA 10175 adds the “committed through a computer system” phrase in the “Means of Libel” (original provision of Art. 355 of the Revised Penal Code below).

Art. 355. Libel means by writings or similar means. — A libel 
committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, 
engraving,radio, phonograph, painting,theatrical exhibition,
cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means, shall be 
punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium 
periods or a fine ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both,
in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the 
offended party.

Long before the RA 10175 was passed, some cyber legal experts had already opined that libel committed online is already included in the libel law provisions of the Revised Penal Code. In one of his interviews, Atty. Jose Jesus “JJ” Disini Jr., a cyber law expert said many had mistakenly thought that defamation on Facebook is not covered by our libel laws. The phrase–“or any similar means” in Art. 355 of the RPC encompasses writing and posting defamatory statements on Facebook and in any online pages and sites.

In my Media Laws and Ethics class at the University of San Jose-Recoletos in Cebu City i’d lined up the legal basis of libel on Facebook and warned my students on the implications of what they’ve been writing on their FB wall. Here’s an excerpt of my lessons which i also posted on this blog years ago:

Some writers in the online community have already expressed their apprehension that the new anti-cyber crime law shall be used to harass bloggers and online writers. Again, even without RA 10175 online libel is already covered by the existing libel law. However, some judges opined that the “similar means” should be clearly defined to include libel committed on television, radio broadcast and in online sites to avoid subjecting it to several interpretations.

In the case of RA 10175 it only includes the “committed through a computer system” as one of the means of libel while the phrase “similar means” is retained. (Below is item 4 under (c) Content-related offenses of Chapter II Punishable Acts of RA 10175.)

(4) Libel. – The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as
defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as 
amended committed through a computer system or any other
similar means which may be devised in the future.

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, the issue on harassment against the online community is no longer an issue since several libel cases have already been filed in relation to online defamation. But what is clear, we now have a law that runs after cyber criminals who shall commit similar offenses below:

  • Hacking (cracking)
  • Cyber squatting
  • Identity theft
  • Computer Fraud
  • Cybersex
  • Child Pornography
  • Commercial Spams
  • Libel

Read RA 10175 to know more of the provisions of the law, especially the fines and penalties thereat. Happy blogging and be responsible online writer!

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