Philippine hackers 'seize' government sites over Cybercrime law

Featured - October 2nd, 2012

Philippine hackers ‘seized’ government websites as outrage over new cybercrime laws reverberated through social networking sites ahead of its expected implementation on October 3, local media report.

The sites of National Telecommunications Commission, the Philippine Information Agency and the Food Development Center were defaced early Monday following Thursday’s attacks on six websites, including the Central Bank of the Philippines. A black screen greeted viewers bearing a message that reads: “This domain name associated with GOV.PH has been seized pursuant to an order issued by Anonymous Philippines”. The hackers, known as “PrivateX” accused the legislation of “destruction of freedom of speech”.

The Cybrecrime Prevention Act of 2012 sent a chilling effect through Filipinos. Under the new Cybercrime law, virtually anyone on the Internet could be convicted with far tougher penalties. People posting defamatory comments on Facebook or Twitter could face up to 12 years imprisonment. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The darkest corners of the legislation reveal a grim outlook for freedom of speech on the Internet. Certain provisions consider clicking “Like” or “retweeting” critical posts on Facebook or Twitter as violation of the law. The law also enables authorities to collect data from personal user accounts on social media without a warrant, AFP reports.

In a turnabout, some policymakers claimed they made a “mistake” and vowed to file a petition in the Supreme Court to repeal certain sections and declare them unconstitutional. One provision sought to be put under a temporary restraining order is Section 4 (c) which criminalizes libel, including  “real or imaginary” claims.

“Without a clear definition of the crime of libel and the persons liable, virtually any person can now be charged with a crime – even if you just re-tweet or comment on an online update or blog post,” Senator Teofisto Guingona, who single-handedly opposed the bill, told AFP. “The questioned provisions… throw us back to the Dark Ages”.