On October 3, 2012 (in my timezone, which would be early October 2 for most of you), I and millions of internet users in the Philippines have officially become criminals, liable to be jailed for up to 12 years.
I will understand if you don’t care. After all, the Philippines seems like such a small, inconsequential place for most to bother with. But if you believe in the right to free speech, the right to express yourself even when you’re in the minority, then please. Listen, understand. Help us spread the word, get others to condemn this act, for one simple reason: the restricting of one’s freedom to express ideas, thoughts, and opinions, for whatever reason, is wrong.
On October 3, a law called the Cybercrime Prevention Act takes into effect in the Philippines. While this sounds very right and proper, this particular law bans (among other things that should be rightfully banned, like hacking, child pornography, and the like) cybersex and online libel.
Well, you think. Online libel can’t be that bad.
Oh, it gets worse.
The Philippine definition of online libel is best summed up as “anything that can be misconstrued as criticism against any one individual, regardless of whether it is the truth or otherwise”.
Criticizing a corrupt politician constitutes online libel.
Complaining about inefficient administration constitutes online libel.
The problem with the Philippine definition is that online libel is so broad and unspecific that nearly anything you say can be counted as it, as long as it’s in opposition to what the ‘injured’ party says. The fact that it is so broad enables politicians or people in positions of power to exercise this law against people with dissenting opinions or to stamp out critics, regardless of whether the latter is in the right.
And libel is criminalized here. It’s not a civil suit. (This is a throwback to the days of America’s shaky colonial rule over the Philippines, where libel was criminalized to dissuade critics. This was in the 1940s. No one has thought of changing it since.) With regards to curtailing freedom of speech and content, it is in many ways similar to the previously squashed SOPA bill. Even worse, considering the jailtime.
Oh, wait. There’s more. You’re going to love this.
1. Liking, tweeting or resharing said ‘online libel’ will also mean YOU get jailtime, too. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t write the original entry.
2. Posts, likes, and tweets are retroactive. That means they can jail you for posts, tweets, or likes you’ve made BEFORE the law went into effect, as far back as 2009.
3. Sarcasm still counts as libel.
4. The Department of Justice can block your access to the internet or to other computer files without a search warrant.
5. Convictions can mean up to twelve years of jail time or a P1,000,000 fine (about $20,000. Minimum wage is roughly $10 a day, but usually for jobs with a diploma. Actual wages can go 50% lower than stated, and that’s a GOOD wage for most of the poor).
6. Then they can charge you again for another law that bans printed libel, resulting in more jailtime. They do not apply double jeopardy in this case.
Cybersexing is a crime, too. Well, maybe child pornography can be avoided with this, right? Except child pornography has already been addressed by another law, it’s merely reaffirmed here. Owing to the Filipino lawmakers’ penchant for broadness, ‘cybersex’ is literally anything that constitutes “The willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration.” Sounds a lot like just plain ol’ pornography, don’t you think? The Philippines, I might add, is an industry geared toward exporting labor. This means husbands / wives are forced to find work abroad for better pay, and do not return home for months.
How did this all start?
Once upon a time, there lived this Senator called Vicento “Tito” Sotto III. He was against the Reproductive Health bill, which if passed, would provide contraceptives and sex education to the poor to minimize overpopulation in the city and infant / maternal death rates.He is a strong backer of the Philippine Catholic Church, which considers contraceptives akin to “abortion” (despite abortion not being a part of the RH bill. It is, in fact, still illegal). The Church has a strong hold in this country, with over 80% Catholics, and funds many politicians.
In Sotto’s speech where he denounces this bill, several bloggers and internet users discovered that he plagiarized text from at least five different U.S. bloggers, including one named Sarah Pope, and from another who was pro-choice, but twisted in his speech to sound anti-choice. Both bloggers expressed dismay at being plagiarized, and he was called out for it. Sotto refused to apologize, and claimed he hadn’t plagiarized because ‘she’s just a blogger’, despite his lawyer confirming that he, in fact, did.
In another speech, Sotto then plagiarized a portion of U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy’s speech, then claimed this was not the case, as the text had been converted to Filipino. Therefore, he argued, it can’t be plagiarized because Robert Kennedy can’t speak Filipino.
You might at this point begin to realize the quality of intelligence of some of the senators here.
Bloggers and internet users refused to back down. Sotto then issues a veiled threat regarding ‘regulating blogging’. A few days later, he inserts an online libel provision to the CyberCrime Prevention Act bill that was not present during previous readings of the bill, which was duly passed with only one dissenting vote from a Senator Guingona.
President Noynoy Aquino then proceeded to sign it into law. The irony is not lost on many of us here. His father, Ninoy Aquino, was an advocate for freedom of speech during the 1970s martial law, and literally gave up his life in the process for it. Ninoy’s popularity is what ushered his relatively inexperienced son into office - only to sign what constitutes as E-Martial law instead.
A couple of senators later came forward to admit that they hadn’t read the amendment clearly, which makes it all the more frightening that they voted for something they didn’t even understand in the first place.
The Reproductive Health bill has been in limbo for nearly fourteen years in the Philippines. Same goes for the Freedom of Information Act, which would ensure government transparency. And yet this bill with its controversial clause was enacted into law within DAYS.
Facebook accounts turn black in protest, the law is trending on Reddit. Human rights groups have condemned this law. Anonymous Philippines has been active. Forbes has spoken out against it. But government here has been notorious for turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the protests of the people, instead pandering to cronies and corruption instead.
Sometimes I can’t help but admire friends living in Western countries. Vote republican or democrat, this labor party or that, but you are still free to express yourselves however you may. Living in a country where religion is the all-powerful, I can no longer say the same. Many people believe this is a ruse to take people’s attention away from the RH bill, and I don’t disagree.
But despite all this, many of my fellow Filipinos refuse to back down, and have resolved to continue posting, liking, tweeting, and resharing what they like, regardless of consequence. Because when you back down, they win. It’s as simple as that.
So for any of you people it will be a normal day at October 3 (or 2), 2012.
I, on the other hand, will be living in October 3, 1970, because this law has just set this nation’s progress at least forty years back.
Be thankful for the freedom that you have, and keep fighting for it.
That’s what we’re doing.
[ Image credit to Mr. Bawagan, who I will not link to here for reasons fairly obvious in this post.]
One thing I am not seeing in this whole “Let us name our abusers” debate is the acknowledgement that false accusations are also a form of abuse.
I want to know who the people slinging slanderous false accusations out of petty revenge are JUST AS MUCH as I want to know who the consent violators are.
Why is it more ethical for someone to tell all their friends (who presumably tell all their friends, etc.) that Mr. Bad Top is bad news, v. posting a journal entry saying “Mr. Bad Top is bad news”? As far as I can see, if Mr. Bad Top is innocent, he’s in a better position in the second case — he’s more likely to find out that he’s being accused, and he can then speak up with his side of the story.
This snippet is good enough, but then I went and read the post it was commenting on, which I’ma repost here before it gets fucking disappeared:
Note | 646 Comments · 594 Love It |4 days agoHi there,I’m a caretaker with the FetLife team. Recently we had a report about your writing, and after review, your writing has been edited and we are writing to let you know. Basically, it’s really not cool to post something that accuses another member of FetLife of a crime. So, we’re giving you a heads up that this behavior is discouraged on our site.Please know that continued posts like this will result in a warning, and continued warnings can get you removed from FetLife. We really hate to do that, so we hope you’ll avoid any inappropriate comments in the future.If you’re having a problem or conflict with another user – we want to help! Please let us know what’s going on, so that we can get involved and help to resolve the issue. We’d much rather do that, than play the bad guy :) We hope you understand, and if you have any questions or comments please don’t hesitate to get back to us.Christopher
This Caretaker edited my journal entry to remove the names of MATTHEW, who is not a user of the site anymore and another dominant member of the New York City scene who sexually penetrated me without my consent. He also removed a comment on the journal entry by @Cashmere, who stated that that same site user had similarly sexually penetrated her after she had explicitly told him not to interact with her genitals or penetrate her in any way.
I’m going to say that again: CHRISTOPHER EDITED MY JOURNAL ENTRY TO DELETE A REFERENCE TO TWO PEOPLE WHO SEXUALLY ASSAULTED ME AND ANOTHER PERSON.
>Dear yandy,What you’ve gone through is terrible, and no one should ever have to go through it. As we’ve told you before, we’re totally fine with you talking about your experiences here on FetLife.Unfortunately making criminal accusations is not currently allowed on FetLife, as you very well know. And now we’ve received another report of you making criminal accusations. Accordingly, we have edited out that part of that post as well, and are now giving you an official FetLife warning.Please note – we are trying to make as minor of changes as we can to your posts, to preserve their integrity as much as we can while still keeping them within our rules. If there is anything we can help you with, please let us knowChristopher
EDITDear yandy,What has happened to you is terrible. No one is trying to deny that – not anyone that I have seen in that thread or elsewhere. And people who do that sort of thing to any other human beings should pay. They should have to pay for what they did to you. No matter what price they pay, that won’t restore you to the person you were before this occurred. But they damn well should have to pay to make it as close as possible!Unfortunately, what you are trying to do doesn’t make that happen. Making criminal accusations is currently against FetLife rules, as you are very aware of. And those we will delete, but try to do so in such a manner as to change your writing or comments as little as possible.I realize that you don’t agree with this policy. I wish that we could move forward together, to foster awareness of the problem within the community, to try to minimize the mindset among some who don’t seem to realize how wrong this is, and to help victims of sexual assault within our community in particular. Those things we stand ready to help foster and assist.Christopher
Then this post, as a response.
Journal Entry | 410 Comments · 503 Love It |4 days ago
I’ve been on this site since the year it started and have paid to support it since. I love how it brings together even the farthest corners of the bdsm world, and it’s played an integral role in my career as a bdsm professional and businesswoman.
My support subscription ran out a week or so ago. At one point, I was certain that I was going my renewal would be as a lifetime supporter. Lately, I’ve been ambivalent, and THIS just clinches it.
Seriously Fet, WHAT THE FUCK. You silence victims and survivors while giving abusers a fucking megaphone. You want my money? Not until we’re able to talk freely about our own abuse and violation without censorship. And to anyone invested in establishing a consent culture in the bdsm world… well, money talks.
Notice that the protest event above has been deleted by Fet, with no explanation or warning given to any of us. I guess it was working! Two more protest events have now taken its place.
Just in case anyone is curious, THIS is the reason I don’t hang out on FetLife. But wait, there’s more…
From the man himself, John Baku, site founder:
Clueless Response #1
In response to your “Edited again”:
Rape is one of the worse crimes anyone can commit. Words can’t describe how disgusting rape is and how much hate I have for anyone who has in any way shape or form sexually assaulted another person.
And the only way to protect others from a sexual offender is by putting them behind bars. Not talking about them on FetLife, Facebook, writing a blog post on the interwebs… etc. It does not prevent this person from doing what they did again to someone else.
Agreed… the legal system has failed many a person… but all this energy should be spent improving the system and not allowing other to name their abusers on a site that is not setup, nor has the resources, to give a fair trial to both parties.
So let’s put our energy towards locking up the rapists and throwing away the keys! This way those who have raped can’t do it again and those who would ever consider rape would be so scared shitless of the consequences they would never even consider it.
@yandy Once again I apologize for the way Christopher handled the case. The case was mishandled and we’ve spoken to him about it.
The overall health of FetLife’s community is by far our number one priority and that is why all of us spend so much time reading what people are saying.
I’ve read suggestion 429 and I’ve also read a lot of other discussions on the topic. From what I’ve read, the community is split on what direction FetLife should take so as a community we need to continue to push our ideas further until we find something that the community, overwhelmingly, can get behind.
Hence, we will continue to iterate over our policies and procedures as we discover new ways to make them better for the community.
Let me just stop for a second and say something I definitely would not be allowed to say on FetLife regarding this choice bit:
Words can’t describe how disgusting rape is and how much hate I have for anyone who has in any way shape or form sexually assaulted another person. - John Baku
John Baku sexually assaulted me. Drunk. At a kink party. In front of many others. I have pictures, which he has personally asked me not to post.
In that I had met him before and was sort of fond of him and he sort of reminded me of another drunk misbehaving dumbass I once loved, I laughed it off. But let it be clear - the reason John sees no problem with any of this rape apologist bullshit is because he has a foggy ass notion of consent and acceptable behavior himself.
And because HE PERSONALLY benefits from people like me staying silent.
About the policy itself, from other members:
It’s not that Facebook permits criminal accusations because they’re sympathetic to potential rape victims and what the hey, we’re a massive company, who cares if we get sued. Every company out to make a profit doesn’t want to get sued. Facebook in fact, does permit criminal accusations to be made via Facebook before they are decided by a trial, sometimes with unusual results. Facebook doesn’t take a stance on criminal accusations because it’s not their fucking problem. The second they try to control it, they create a precedent for deciding that it is their fucking problem - and then they’re going to have to answer the question of why they didn’t comb through a seriously gigantic amount of data to find all the shit that a judge or a jury thinks they ought to have found. That’s not how Facebook’s going to roll. If you have a problem with something someone said on Facebook, Facebook will cheerfully direct you to your local law enforcement.
Take a look at that. That’s how a company with a legit team on counsel handles their business, as opposed to John Baku and whatever dinky mail-order law-school drop-out he picked up at the local bar five years ago or whatever the fuck he did instead of trying to run his business like something other than a clueless fuckhead. If you’re going to cover your ass, cover your ass fucking properly.
Right. So. FetLife is Canadian, so oh noes we cannot name the rapists. Yes, Canada does have much stronger privacy laws than the United States. I wonder if that’s why they’re running this shit out of Dallas. John Baku is based out of Vancouver, but his staff is scattered all over North America. Honestly, we don’t even know to what extent FetLife “is” a Canadian company. According to what I just linked to, they registered their domain in Arizona. I think that complicates the “oh no we’re Canadian” defense a wee bit.
But what really complicates the “oh noes they’re naming the rapists” argument is the whole “oh noes they’re talking about pedophilia and bestiality and whatnot but oh hey watch us not give a shit” argument. If FetLife really had legal reasons for covering their ass, they’d do a much better job. That means that, yeah, John Baku needs to step up and tell us why he supports a self-admitted abuser’s right to not have his old username besmirched over the right of a human being to talk about some devastating shit that happened to them. Shit that they might’ve not had to go through if people could use FetLife to warn each other about people on FetLife. Which is all we’re asking.
tl;dr Fuck you, FetLife. Fuck you raw.
If another person who has had no fucking experience reporting a kink scene related sexual assault to the police says to report an incident to the police, I swear I am going to burn the fucking Internet down.
If one more goddamn person says “Go to the cops”, I’m firebombing.
LIke the cops are going to do fuck-all. Seriously.
This is so fucked up.
See also: http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/theres-a-war-on-part-4-just-us/
Honestly, if someone’s advice is to go to the police or the courts, then that should be the same standard applied to libel and false accusations. If someone makes a false accusation against you, go to the police. Stop expecting fetlife to police people for you. Oh wait, now we see why that response is just a derail.