Wednesday, October 10, 2012


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Crime does not pay. No one is above the law.

Looking back at how these adages came into our society's consciousness, we are reminded of a time when nations were still kingdoms ruled by archetypal monarchs for decades, even centuries. It is this point in history when people questioned their existence as whether solely for life-long servitude or pursuit of personal well-being. It was in this period when people found the answer to their questions: that kings and queens weren't as divine as they thought they are and that the ordinary human can lead a group of people as much as these elites can. Hence, concepts such as human rights and social contract came into being and gave birth to democratic nations we now know today, including our own country.

Rights and the Social Contract

By breaking the shackles of despotism and committing themselves into taking the reins of national leadership, the people of the first democratic nations agreed to establish a covenant. This so-called social contract basically defines what rights free people have as both human beings and citizens and their determination to uphold and protect such rights through their agent – The State. It also stipulates that by letting The State enforce and preserve these rights, citizens will have to surrender some of the same rights in order to achieve such mission and bring forth what is commonly good for all. Hence, by agreeing that crime should not pay and that no one is above the law, in the event that one man breaks the social contract, that man must surrender some of his rights (i.e. the right to free movement) as a consequence of his actions. The same is true when a person, in committing to uphold anyone's honor and reputation, must limit his/her freedom of speech once such speech degrades anyone's well-being.

Rights in the Digital Divide

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Granted the freedom to pursue their well-being and improve their way of life, human beings have made huge strides politically, economically, and technologically. The world became smaller as they developed newer and faster means to communicate and exchange ideas or goods, the testament of which is the evolution from snail mail to social media. Each of these media celebrated freedom of speech in its own way, with social media being the most celebrated by our generation among all these means. Thus, any person within a point in a map, can now speak their minds seamlessly with just a flicker of the keyboard.

However, the celebration of freedom of speech in social media also has its consequences. Just as its predecessors, print and broadcast media, social media has become a platform for attacks against a person's honor and reputation as well as a means to circumvent all other rights in the book. Concepts such as piracy, online pornography, online libel, and cyberbullying were coined to describe such violations. The Internet does seem to put crime above the law with its seemingly free and somewhat anarchic atmosphere.

Where Do We Draw the Line?

With the evolution of crime in the today's Information Age, policing the Internet is seen as a viable option to uphold human rights and protect citizens from themselves and others in accordance to the social contract. But is the Digitial Divide within the scope of our social contracts? Where do we draw the line between freedom in the Internet and protecting human rights?

Governments around the world have come up with different approaches to policing the Web. The United States tried enacting its SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) only to draw tremendous flak from Internet companies and users alike. The Philippines, for its part, succeeded in enacting and signing into law the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (Republic Act No. 10175), which is aimed at curbing a multitude of criminal acts on the Internet and other platforms of communication. Just like SOPA and PIPA, it was met with massive protests never before seen in the country, which included hacking of government websites by anonymous digital revolutionaries. The law and the subsequent reaction to its passage has received both favorable and negative comments about it both from the masses and the intelligentsia both local and abroad.

A Tightrope to the Right Direction

There should be no doubt about it: we need the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 more than ever. It is perhaps the most crucial step we've made as a nation in response to rampant criminal acts on the Web. Nevertheless, while the ends of the law is justified, the means to achieve these ends should be in accordance to our social contract. Its enforcement should favor both parties, not the State or the citizens solely. By agreeing to uphold and protect their rights and well-being on the Internet, citizens must allow some of their rights, such as the right to free speech, to be limited either by the State or by themselves. The State, by upholding and protecting the rights of everyone on the Internet should not curtail or completely abolish our rights to free speech, expression, and privacy, and should be open to scrutiny regarding their actions.

The State should not be antagonized for enacting this law, nor should citizens be antagonized for their outright disagreement. Rather, both stakeholders must sit down once more and review the social contracts they have established and agreed to and come to a balanced resolution to the issue of cybercrime. Working hand in hand in achieving our goals for a better, happier, and humane society is the key. While online protests are essential in drawing attention to the need for reevaluation, protests that result in the usurpation of other people's rights and delay in State services is a defeatist cause.

Yes, people should not be afraid of governments. After all, we are the government. Hence, we should all be afraid of ourselves and the crimes we could possibly commit on the Net. You may not agree with what I say, but I will defend your right to disagree to it. In the end, I say, our freedom to do what we want should never justify wrong as right. TSS

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