Philippines court halts a contentious cybercrime law

Amid worries the new law is too general and could lead to the silencing of government critics, the country's Supreme Court suspends the law for 120 days.

ABSCBN News/YouTube shows Filipinos protesting the Cybercrime Prevention Act 2012. Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Days after a strict cybersecurity law went into effect in the Philippines, the country's Supreme Court suspended it.

According to the Associated Press, the court issued a temporary restraining order to freeze the government's enforcement of the Cybercrime Prevention Act 2012. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the law will be suspended for 120 days. The court plans to hear oral arguments from the law's supporters and critics in January.

President Benigno Aquino III signed the law last month and it became official last week. There were no reports of anyone violating the law.

Thousands of people protested the cybersecurity law over the past few weeks, complaining that its general scope violated civil liberties. The law was allegedly intended to curb cybercrimes like hacking, identity theft, spam, and online child pornography. However, it also construed online libel as a crime. Some people worried that even a Facebook "Like" could be seen as libel and thus bring a 12-year jail penalty.

Civil society groups, journalists, and human rights groups are most concerned that hard-line politicians may use the law to silence and jail government critics.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation described the law's passage as a "dark day for the Philippines." And the Asia director for Human Rights Watch Brad Adams asked the Supreme Court to "go further by striking down this seriously flawed law."

Several bloggers and Web sites also carried out online protests of the law. Many Facebook and Twitter users uploaded profile photos of a black screen in protest, while hackers attacked a handful of government Web sites.

About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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