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Draconian Phillippine cybercrime law put on hold

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The Supreme Court of the Philippines agrees with legions of Internet users around the world: the country’s new cybercrime law, which criminalizes pornography and seriously threatens free speech, probably requires another look.

Citing 15 different legal petitions, the highest court in the Philippines put a 120-day restraining order on the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (CPA) on Tuesday, and scheduled a hearing on its constitutionality for January 15. The bill infamously outlaws “cybersex,” referring to essentially any sexually themed activity online, whether it’s making porn or sending a spouse a revealing photo. It also lets the government shut down illegal websites without due process. Coupled with the country’s strict libel laws, that means websites can easily be shuttered just for hosting words against another person.

The CPA wasn’t exactly passed by a scheming Philippine Congress intent on destroying online rights. Instead, according to the South China Morning Post’s Raissa Robles, the bill was a rushed and botched job by only seven senators and twelve representatives. Though Congress is required to read bills three times before voting, in the case of the CPA’s third pass, only the title of the bill was read out loud. Several members later expressed surprise that it had passed.

That was no excuse to those who opposed the law. More than 75,000 Filippinos signed an online petition condemning the CPA. Groups like the Philippine Internet Freedom Alliance organized a blackout in protest. And members of Anonymous, who hacked more than a dozen Filppino government-related sites in retaliation.

As one of the legal petitions states, the CPA might be in violation of the United Nations, anyway, which has declared human rights, including that to free speech, apply online.

“The Philippines [has] an obligation owed to humanity, to promote and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression on the Internet on the part of its citizens,” it read.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons