Kabataan Partylist files Magna Carta of Internet Users

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WHILE the assailed Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 lies in “legal limbo” in the Supreme Court following the commencement of the oral arguments, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino has filed House Bill 6818, or the “Magna Carta of Internet Users.”

Filed last January 17, the bill seeks to promote and protect the rights of Internet users.

“In a move to turn legislation on the Internet from being restrictive towards becoming responsive to the needs of netizens, Kabataan Partylist has drafted a magna carta of Internet users, which outlines the basic rights that all netizens should enjoy online,” the blogger-turned-youth solon said.

Palatino explained that in both the 14th and 15th Congress, his colleagues in the Lower House have continually drafted laws that “restrict rather than protect” users.

“This underlying premise of penalizing users instead of ensuring their rights online is exactly the reason why we have punitive laws like the Anti-Cybercrime Act,” he explained.

In the explanatory note of the bill, Palatino cited a report to the United Nations Human Rights Commission released in June 2011, which states “Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all States.”

‘Extensive consultation’

The said bill has undergone “extensive consultation” among netizens, ICT groups and various sectors to ensure that it “truly represents the will of Internet users,” and do not end up like the Cybercrime Law, which was drafted without consulting affected sectors.

“Before we filed this bill, we talked to bloggers, Internet user organizations, youth groups, and other cause-oriented groups to discuss its content,” the youth solon said.

“Their valuable input was incorporated in the bill, so what we actually have now is a collectively-drafted magna carta,” Palatino added.

Users’ rights

HB 6818 lists down the basic rights of all Filipino Internet users, including:

Universal Access to the Internet. – All citizens have the right to access the internet. No citizen shall be denied access to the internet on account of one’s socio-economic status, political or religious beliefs, sexual orientation, or physical handicap.

Association on the Internet. – All citizens have the right to gather and participate in shared learning, creation and exchange of ideas through online activities.

Quality of Connection. – All internet subscribers have the right to quality connection, which ensures that internet speed and signal strength received by the subscriber shall not be lower than that agreed upon by the subscriber and the internet service provider.

Right to Benefit from What They Create. – All citizens have the right to benefit from their ideas, creations and publications on the internet, including but not limited to monetary remunerations and credit for the work done.

Freedom of Expression on the Internet. – All citizens have the right to express their ideas, views and opinions on the internet without fear of reprisal. The preservation of the right to privacy and freedom of expression in communications is a condition for the full exercise of the right to internet access.

Privacy on the Internet. – The State shall guarantee the right to privacy of its citizens. The State shall protect the right of a person to ensure the privacy of the data or networks over which the person has property rights over, and shall protect the right of a person to employ reasonable means to this end.

Section 14 of HB 6818 also lists down several prohibited acts that would ensure the privacy of Internet users, including:

Monitoring or analyzing of data by an internet service provider without prior knowledge and consent of the user or subscriber.

Internet surveillance and data collection on users by agencies and instrumentalities of the State without securing a court order.

Identification of internet users and disclosure of their communications data without a court order and for purposes other than criminal investigations and criminal proceedings.

Accessing communications data by persons other than public authorities that are directly involved in criminal investigations and criminal proceedings.

“The growing importance, the critical role it plays in national development and the continuing advancement of communications technologies, particularly the internet, necessitate the enactment of measures to protect and promote the rights of its end users,” Palatino said.

‘Fast-track discussion of Cybercrime Repeal Bill, Magna Carta’

Meanwhile, the youth solon has written the Office of House Committee on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Chair Sigfrido Tinga to express the urgent need for the said committee to conduct a hearing to discuss HB 6818 and HB 6613, a bill which seeks to repeal Sections 4(c)4, 5, 6, 7 and the whole Chapter 4 of RA 10175.

Section 4(c)4, 5, and 6 of RA 10175 relate to online libel, and are unconstitutional due its vagueness, the youth solon explained. Meanwhile, Chapter IV of RA 10175 is also unconstitutional for violating constitutional due process, Palatino explained.

“While the Cybercrime Law lies in legal limbo in the high court, Congress should also do its part to rectify the errors committed in passing the so-called ‘E-Martial Law,” Palatino said.

The House ICT Committee has yet to discuss both bills at the committee level, even as session in the Lower House will again be adjourned in the first week of February.

“Again, I appeal to my colleagues, let us not be slowpokes and dilly-dally on important pieces of legislation. We have little time left, and we must use it to pass the aforementioned bills,” Palatino said.

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