Did you know Online Libel has been around since 2001?

It looks like the biggest issue of a lot of people with the Anti-Cybercrime Law (R.A. 10175) is the online defamation or online libel provisions. This is because everyone on Facebook or Twitter can now be held liable for their posts.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, the provision on online libel did not came into effect with the Anti-Cybercrime Law.

The Electronic Commerce Act of 2000 outlined that electronic evidence may be admissible in court.

The Rules on Electronic Evidence shall apply to cases pending after their effectivity. These Rules shall take effect on the first day of August 2001 following their publication before the 20th of July in two newspapers of general circulation in the Philippines.

Not just FB posts or a tweet but audio or video as well:

Audio, photographic and video evidence of events, acts or transactions shall be admissible provided is shall be shown, presented or displayed to the court and shall be identified, explained or authenticated by the person who made the recording or by some other person competent to testify on the accuracy thereof.

That law has now made the Revised Penal Code under Article 355 on Libel applicable to the use of internet.

Art. 355. Libel means by writings or similar means. — A libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means, shall be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the offended party.

The one on “or any similar means” may include Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. An example of a huge online libel case was filed back in October 18, 2005 by the Yuchengco Group vs. the planholders of PEP plans regarding statements they posted on pepcoalition.com and pacificnoplan.blogspot.com.

According to some judges, that “similar means“provision should have been clarified because it has been subjected to various interpretations.

Contrary to Gina Alajar’s contention that her account in Facebook where she posted the shout-outs unfavorable to the Ranillos is private, a cyber law expert said a mere 2 to 3 persons receiving the message is enough to meet the requirement of the publication in libel.

The first libel case because of Facebook was filed in 2009 by Dr. Vicky Belo against writer-lawyer-activist Atty. Argee Guevarra. The case was later dismissed.

What the Anti-Cybercrime Law did was to clearly outline what online libel is and basically doubled the penalties.

It’s legal basis:

Anything on Facebook is in writing (Art. 355—Libel means by writing and similar means)
Facebook is online– therefore it’s “public”. (Art. 355– “any similar means”)
If the shoutout and other statements on Facebook is a malicious imputation (Art. 353– cause “dishonor”…)
If the subject of the imputation is named (Elements of libel–”specific”)
If the statement stays for a while and not removed even the attention of the doer is called– (Elements of libel– “repetitive”)

Privacy of “shout-outs” and other statements on it:

“Shout-outs” are addressed to “network of friends” (However, 2 or 3 persons reading it or a third party reading it has already met the requirement of publication of libel.)
“Pages” on Facebook are not private

Important points to remember in “Facebooking”:

Sending a libelous statement to 2 to 3 people meet the standard for publication in libel.
Republishing a libelous statement by “cut and paste” is also a libel.
Creating a hyperlink to a libelous statement is also libel.
Facebook is not liable for libelous statement.

The Electronic Commerce Law (Republic Act 8792) states that a service provider is not liable as long as long as it “does not have actual knowledge, or is not aware of the facts and circumstances” from which unlawful material is published, distributed or disseminated. “Therefore, the only way to hold them liable is when you ask them to take it down. And when they refuse to take it down, then it appears that they agree with the statement,”

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