MANILA, Philippines — A day before the Cybercrime Prevention Act is scheduled to take effect, Filipino social media users gave the online world a peek into what the controversial law, seen as an assault to freedom of expression, would do to the vibrant Pinoy community online.
As some netizens trooped to the Supreme Court in a street protest staged against the law, social media users posted on Facebook a status update containing a black horizontal bar followed by a text that read: “[status update blocked.] (by RA . 10175).”
The blacked-out status updates have already gone viral and are being posted today by practically every Facebook user who is against the law.
Other users also intentionally blacked out portions of their status updates that were very critical of the government, demonstrating how the law aims to muzzle the government’s vocal critics online particularly on social media sites like Facebook.
The Philippines has been deemed the “social networking capital of the world” with more than 29 million Internet users registered in social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter — the same amount of Filipinos which the new law threatens to silence.
“As a sign of protest, please take down your profile pictures and cover photos and change it to (sic) simple black image,” one call to action, which has been going around Facebook, read.
“We also call on website administrators in the Philippines to take down/blacken their websites starting 12 midnight in protest of the looming implementation of the draconian law,” it added.
The local online actions were reminiscent of the cyber protests staged by social media users in the United States early this year, as various Internet companies, websites, and netizens rallied against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), which sought to threaten the free-wheeling and open nature of the Internet.
The Cybercrime Prevention Act has already been compared with SOPA and PIPA in that it also threatens to end torrent downloading and file-sharing online.
Earlier, local hacktivist groups defaced several government websites in protest of the Cybercrime law, calling attention to contentious provisions in the measure including the libel clause that formally brings offline libel to the online world.
A total of seven petitions have already been filed before the Supreme Court asking for the repeal of the controversial provisions, with more on the way.