Quo Vadisi: Deconstructing the Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom #MCPIF

Cyberspace has become more convenient to others as a platform to maximize human utility. For instance if you want to know something about someone, what is trending and the most talked about boo-boos, from news tidbits to do-it-yourself videos, all is made available the moment you type-in a set of words in the query field of your browser.

Connectivity across the globe to anyone you know is instant guaranteed just by downloading mail messenger softwares, webchat applications and skype among others. Commercial transactions are made online as well like booking of flights, hotel accommodations, and online billing/payments to name a few. In short, it encompasses all human activities that can be made paperless and online-ready. Hence, as they a lot of what we do can already be done with just one click.

However, as we all have become internet-reliable, we also have exposed ourselves to the vulnerability of cyberspace to all forms of risks and perils crafted also by cyberspace users.

Thus, the need to make sure that Cyber-legislation is in its place to safeguard the rights of users, internet service providers and the like.

Even Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web believes an online “Magna Carta” is needed to protect and enshrine the independence of the medium he created and the rights of its users worldwide. In an interview, he told the Guardian that “the web had come under increasing attack from governments and corporate influence and that new rules were needed to protect the “open, neutral” system”. (Kiss, 2014)

Narrowed down to the Philippines, efforts also have been made to address the pervading issues of Cybercrime and Internet Freedom. Specifically is that of the Senate Bill No. 53 or the MCPIF, which is the first bill that Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed in the 16th Congress. According to Santiago, her bill will protect the rights and freedoms of Filipinos in cyberspace, while defining and penalizing cybercrimes. (Press Release Senate of the Philippines, 2013)

Should the MCPIF be passed, it shall repeal the much controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 or Republic Act No. 10175. Further, it will be the first law to be created through crowdsourcingii, as formulations were made through discussions in social media channels by a group of concerned citizens ranging from software designers, IT Specialists, academics, bloggers to engineers, lawyers and human rights advocates. (Press Release Senate of the Philippines, 2013)

#MCPIF and ITS DISCONTENTS: Are there any?

 Since the Bill is at its infancy, varying points for consideration may be had so as to give the said Bill a much solid strength. Multi-perspective approach will be applied to discuss some subject areas of the same.

As to the Users

The users of the internet have no age limit. For example even before a six-year old child learns how to spell words like “Girl Games” or “Dress-Up Games”, somehow she manages to have it installed in her IPAD or other gadgets and find her way to the game just by relying on the visual and audio plays.

A twenty-four year old on the other hand uses the internet for recreational purposes like posting selfies, watching videos online, reading blogs and other snippets of his/her interests. With these activities, they may or may not be aware of their rights and responsibilities both online and offline. And totally unaware of such rights and responsibilities is to some extent a huge ordeal to beckon with.

For example, after downloading an application, a message will pop-up requesting permission should you want to continue and it will direct you to another site (trusted?). Why is it an issue? Is this even a big deal?

It should be considered. Because it concerns cybersafety, for what comes to and fro your desktop or mobile smartphone invites risks, such as malwares, viruses etc.

Practicability issue of encryption/cryptography in the Philippines

Therefore, instead of the permissive character of Chapter III Section 10 [2] iii of the MCPIF Bill on encryptioniv or cryptographyv to protect the privacy of the date or networks over which the person has property rights, it is strongly suggested that it shall be made a mandatory requirement for all computer networks in the Philippines.

An assessment on how will mandatory encryption standards affect IT operations may be considered vis-à-vis the great impact it may have on securing Internet rights and freedom of a user. The proponents of the bill may want to look also on the expertise, time, money or efforts that may be used to attain this standard.

The questions that may be taken into consideration are the following:

Is it practicable in application with the Philippine setting? Or is it something that the Philippine resources, both financial and human not yet capable of realization as managing encryption keys is a matter of great complication.

The IT vendors may also be consulted with this issue along with ITC specialists of our country, if we are ready for it or is it a must that we be ready for something as monumental as this.

Issue on Publication of security updates for devices that are internet-able

In the same vein, since Chapter III Section 11[2] viof the same provides right to security of data, it is also suggested that the Bill provides for a publication of security updates for devices that are internet-able.

Key areas for study should be the mechanisms on how-to do it by Software and IT Companies, as to what constitutes proper notice, rights and obligations of the users and the like. If this will be guaranteed, it shall be easier on the part of the user to know if a particular security update is legitimate. Or is it a tool to propagate a cybercrime.

In that sense, prevention is expected to cost less than combatting the after-effects of a compromised device, software, personal account etc.

1c. Battling Cyber-bullying: Should be of all ages

The Internet can be a haven to realize narcissistic ends when you upload a photo of your best shot and that which is liked and appreciated by your virtual friends. However, when there are haters/bashers on the run, you are also vulnerable to cyber-bullying.

It may be superficial in the beginning but may become a potential threat to one’s reputation and peace of mind. It is easy to ignore at one point but if it gets too far and way too demeaning, what can be done and how shall it be addressed? What measures or remedies are available for him/her?

As a matter of perspective, the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 or Republic Act 10627 covers only Elementary and Secondary Schools. Acts of Bullying may either be physical, social, verbal and cyber in nature. It is committed by one or group of students.vii

Confining our situation to that cyber in nature, as a matter of reality, cyber-bullies are not mere Elementary and Secondary students. For adult bullies operate in a much harsher manner.

Cyber-bullying is defined as any bullying done through the use of technology or electronic means. Gleaning from this definition, it is not in any way difficult to include adults as another species of these cyber-bullies.

These considerations must be included in the MCPIF. What must be determined is how a classification is made looking into the challenges of identifying one as cyber-bullying which can be done incognito i.e. using a false/pseudo name and identity.

Key areas to further look into include mechanism on how to trace a cyber-bullying activity, recording and reporting procedure and investigation proper.

Further, who can report incidents of cyber-bullying, how are they to be handled, should a penal provision be attached as it can be life-threatening to some extent or not. And lastly, whether or not should such acts only impose a civil liability for damages.

As to Internet Service Providers/Network Owners

As regards cyberattacksvii, the Bill may also include the scope, extent and mechanism on how the Internet Service Provider/s and/or Network Owner/s may provide assistance should these incidents be identified.

It may also include the role or responsibility of Internet Service Provider/s and/or Network Owner/s in deterring cyberattacks, the methods and means on how it is to be operated in cooperation with the Cybercrime Units deputized by the said bill.

It must be defined with the prime purpose of protecting their rights and interests as well.

As to the Academe

Cyber-ethics as a mandatory course

Under Chapter XV. Public Information Campaign section 61, The Department of Education and the Department of Social Welfare and Development may provide age-appropriate information campaigns in schools for nationwide awareness, safe use of the Internet and Information and Communications technology for children of school age and for out-of-school youths.

The main question here that may be further addressed in the bill is, why not make it mandatory?

For example, a subject like Cyber-ethics may be included as part of curriculum of schools. The Computer subjects found in the school curriculum may be expanded as well to include Cyber-ethics. Considering the technical terms/jargons that may be discussed, the scope of the requirement may be for Secondary Levels. For Tertiary Level, it may be included as an expanded version of Computer Subject that is a non-major course.

It may be also noteworthy to mention the Rizal Law or Republic Act 1425ix which mandated all educational institutions to offer courses about Jose P. Rizal, in recognition of his significant contribution to our history and culture.

In the same vein, it might be timely and relevant to assess that considering the huge impact of the Internet and ICT in our lives, Cyber-ethics as a mandatory course may be plausible to protect the rights of the users both online and offline. At the same time, it raises awareness as to the responsibilities that come with it.

Cyberlibertarianism: How much of the Public is truly involved

The MCPIF Bill takes pride on it being a product of crowdsourcing. True enough, the efforts put forth by people from different sectors of society upon realization changed the landscape of legislation.

The Bill in itself is a strong affirmation of the unimaginable and astounding power of the Social Network community and the medium it used.

On one note, what is also equally important is the nature of the Magna Carta itself apart from its source. Is it really a case where the Public is greatly involved? How about after it has been enacted into a law?

Theorists on Cyberlibertarianism provide the policymakers and the public an alternative approach towards regulating the affairs of cyberspace.

Cyber-libertarianism which refers to the belief that individuals-acting in whatever capacity they choose (as citizens, consumers, companies, or collectives)-should be at liberty to pursue their own tastes and interests online. Thinkers of this School of Thought believe that true “Internet freedom” is freedom from state action; not freedom for the State to reorder our affairs to supposedly make certain people or groups better off or to improve some amorphous “public interest. (Thierer & Szoka, 2009)

Following this school of thought, key considerations that may be included in the Bill then are the following:

1) The aspects of information sharing, coordination and cooperation among the stakeholders;

2) The establishment of mechanisms that will guarantee the foregoing;

3) Specifically, is there an established contact point between and among the stakeholders.

Delving on the Extraterrorial Application of the MCPIF

Key consideration in this aspect is the matter of prosecution should the offender/violator happens to be a national of a State in which the Philippines has no existing extradition treaty.

Since, cybercrime is transnational and transborder in nature, possible areas that may be looked into would be the access, transfer and investigation of data to be secured. The issues on jurisdiction over the person and subject matter.

Likewise is the scope and mechanism for mutual legal assistance on a matter between and among countries involved in a cybercrime case.

Conclusion

The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom is truly promising at greater lengths.

First, it managed to empower the Filipino people as it is a successful crowdsourcing document. Various sectors of the society embodied the zeal of participative democracy. They let their voices be heard and stamped it with a bill. Internet and the ICT as a whole is now a moving force in shaping our culture and our lives.

Second, the MCPIF managed to encapsulate the pervading reality that the Filipinos regardless of age have slowly conquered the concept of “digital divide”.

Third, the MCPIF is a monumental effort on the part of the government to make the Philippines in place with the other countries who acknowledged the power of ICT and/or the Internet.

Fourth, the MCPIF safeguards the rights of the users both online and offline.

Lastly, there is an acknowledgment that cybercrimes are as life-threatening as the terrestrial offenses/violations.

On the other hand, there are key areas that may also be taken into consideration as discussed in the foregoing. The question is really about the readiness of the Philippines to the Bill. And the answer should not be a mere yes or no. The answer should be that we must be ready.

Going forward, we should not forget that our participation on addressing issues on the cyberspace does not end in the giving out of recommendations and opinions on a piece of legislation.

We must make sure that it extends also up to the time that a bill becomes a law. Hence, once it takes effect and is being implemented, we must also ensure that we are not disenfranchised and must have the conscious effort to move towards the improvement as well.

Going back then to the question of quo vadis? It will be on a path where it should be, guided by its people, multi-stakeholders of varying interests.

References

Kiss, J. (2014, March 12). The Guardian. Retrieved May 1, 2014, from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/mar/12/online-magna-carta-berners-lee-web

Press Release Senate of the Philippines. (2013, July 3). Retrieved May 1, 2014, from Senate of the Philippines Website: http://www.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2013/0703_santiago1.asp

Thierer, A., & Szoka, B. (2009, August 12). Cyber-Libertarianism: The Case for Real Internet Freedom. Retrieved May 1, 2014, from The Technology Liberation Front Web site: http://techliberation.com/2009/08/12/cyber-libertarianism-the-case-for-real-internet-freedom/

Endnotes


i
 A Latin expression meaning: Where are you going?

ii Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers. Retrieved 1 May 2014 from http://i.word.com/idictionary/crowdsourcing.

iii The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom. Chapter III Internet Rights and Freedom, Section 10 [2]. Right to privacy of data. It shall not be unlawful for any person to employ means such as encryption or cryptography to protect the privacy of the data or networks over which the person has property rights over.

iv [Ibid] Chapter II Definition of Terms. 29. Encryption- An encoding scheme that produces meaningless information to all observers except those with the decoding key.

v[Ibid] Chapter II Definition of Terms. 16. Cryptography- the discipline which embodies principles, means, and methods for the transformation of data in order to hide its information content, prevent its undetected modification and/or prevent its unauthorized use.

vi [Ibid] Chapter III. Section 11 (2). Right to Security of Data. It shall not not be unlawful for any person to employ any means, whether physical, electronic, or behavioral, to protect the security of the data or networks over which the person has property rights over.

vii RA 10627. An Act Requiring All Elementary and Secondary Schools to Adopt Policies to Prevent and Address the Acts of Bullying in their Instititutions. 

viii The Magna Carta for Philippine Internet Freedom. Chapter II Definition of Terms. 18. Cyberattack-An attack by a hostile foreign nation-state or violent nation-state actors on Philippine critical infrastructure or networks through or using the Internet or information and communications technology. The term may also be used to mean an assault on system security that derives from an intelligent threat, i.e. an intelligent act that is a deliberate attempt to evade security services and violate the security policy of a system.

ix Republic Act 1425 a.k.a. Rizal Law. An Act to Include in the Curricula of All Public and Private Schools, Colleges and Universities Courses on the Life, Works and Writings of Jose Rizal, Particulary His Novels Noli Me Tangere amnd El Filibusterismo, Authorizing the Printing and Distribution Thereof, and for Other Purposes.

 

 

 

 

 

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