Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III has signed into law the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, a far-ranging piece of legislation that was passed by the Senate in June and made official last week. A government official said that the new law is
intended to curtail a number of offenses frequently committed on the internet, but that it also prohibits certain content-related behavior.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview that punishable acts under the
new law include offenses against the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer data system, illegal access, illegal interception, data interference, system interference and misuse of devices.
The law also includes offenses such
as computer-related forgery, fraud, libel and identity theft, as well as content-related offenses such as cybersex and child pornography.
The Act is particularly miserable in sections defining banning webcam girls, sex video chat or cybersex. The
act defines cybersex as the wilful 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 favour or consideration .
The law states that the regional trial court
shall have jurisdiction over any violation of the provisions of this Act including any violation committed by a Filipino national regardless of the place of commission... if any of the elements was committed within the Philippines .
breaking the law faces a fine of 250,000 Philippine pesos ($6,000; £ 3,700) and a jail term of up to six months.
One of the authors of the law, senator Edgardo Angara, said the act was needed to detect,
investigate and suppress cybercrime such as hacking, cybersex, identity theft, spamming, and child pornography online.
The National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police are now meant to set up a cybercrime unit to
exclusively handle cases involving violations of this act . To deal with these cases, the authorities are planning to create cybercrime courts with specially trained judges.
Philippine media organisations have expressed concerns that it may
also be used to curb press freedom because it lists internet libel as cybercrime. According to the act, someone found guilty of libellous comments online, including comments made on social networks and blogs, could be jailed for up to 12 years with no
possibility of parole.
The Philippines' top court has suspended a repressive new law supposedly targeting cybercrime, following protests by critics who say it stifles free speech.
The new law, called the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, came into effect earlier this
month. The law predictably cited child pornography, identity theft and spamming but also made libel a cybercrime punishable by up to 12 years in jail.
The act is also adopted a heavy hand to prevent cybersex, defined as sexually explicit chat over
the internet, often involving cam girls performing sexual acts in front of webcams for internet customers. Government officials would also have had new powers to search and seize data from people's online accounts.
The Supreme Court issued
a temporary restraining order preventing the act from being enforced after 15 petitions questioning its legality were filed.
But protesters say the legislation would be used to target government critics and crack down on freedom of speech.