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What The Cybercrime Law Tells Us About Our Society Today

 or Why Sen Sotto May Have a Point

Like most people, I was so relieved when the Supreme Court released the TRO on the Cybercrime law. Now, months after that very emotional rollercoaster ride and in light of Malacanang’s efforts to revive the law, I’m now able to read through the all the commentaries, stories and statements about this issue with a more objective eye. Reading through all of that, I had a surprising realization; Senator Tito Sotto had a valid point in his push to pass the cybercrime law. I can see that he did see a serious problem in our society today and he was trying to address it in his own way. However, the approach was wrong and I personally don’t think the cybercrime law is the right solution to the problem that I think he wants to address.

The problem that I think he was trying to solve was how some people seem to turn into rude, mindless, inconsiderate monsters once they go online. I want to make this clear. I still don’t like him and his questionable methods in getting the cyberlibel clause inserted in the bill. I’m still insulted by how condescending he is in his statements about the RH bill, his plagiarism scandal, and about the cybercrime law. But I have to concede that he has a point, a lot of Filipinos are rude or “bastos” online; me included.

And Senator Sotto isn’t the only one who noticed this phenomenon. When Stella Estremera of SunStar Davao talked about the impact of social media and the youth on news at the Social Net Worth Forum in Davao City last Aug 29, she pointed out repeatedly the widespread use of profanity by the youth on social media. She even challenged the students in attendance with these questions, “How do you want to be remembered online? Do you want to be known as the ‘pak, shet, bech’ person? Or do you want to be remembered as a person who talked about things that mattered?”

Image Courtesy of the technology section of Inquirer.net

What May Be The Cause For All This

I think this has more to do with the fact that most of us who use the internet somehow have this idea that whatever we do online isn’t real. Cyberbullying isn’t real bullying because no punches and kicks were exchanged. Cybersex isn’t real sex because bodily fluids aren’t exchanged. It’s okay be to a foul-mouthed b***h/a*****e online as long as none of the expletives you use on cyberspace passes through your lips in real life.

But the problem is everything that moves; that includes content on cyberspace, are subject to Newton’s second law of motion. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The reaction isn’t as visible as those we see in real life but they’re there and the effects more lasting.

Cyberbullying is bullying. Insulting a person online is no different from insulting him in person. Threatening a person physical harm online produces the same degree of fear as when you threaten them in real life.

Cybersex is sex because you don’t need your genitals to experience sexual satisfaction. That’s because sex and sexual satisfaction has more to do with the organ between your ears than the one between your legs. This means that anyone who wants to engage in sex, including cybersex, must have the physical, mental, and emotional maturity needed to deal with the consequences of the act.

What We Need To Do

You can’t outlaw rudeness or sex because it’s impossible and it’s wrong. That’s what the cybercrime law is trying to do. What we can do, what we NEED to do is to educate ourselves and future internet users to be as responsible online as they are offline. As part of the current online generation, we have to teach by example. We have to work on being more responsible with our posts, likes, shares and comments. When we give our opinions, we have to stick to the issues, we have to be critical and we have to be tact. We have to drill into our thick skulls that whether we like it or not, we are influencing the views and opinions of hundreds, nay thousands, of people that are connected to us one way or another. We have to constantly be vigilant and remind ourselves that whatever we put online stays online forever and is virtually impossible to erase.

And with our children, we have to teach them how to translate good values like respect online. We have to explain why they have to think before you click. We have to show them that behind every online profile is a real person and that person deserves respect. We have to teach them that their online personas are extensions of their personalities and their online profiles can influence their offline lives as well.

I still don’t like Senator Sotto but I can’t deny that he has a point. There’s no reason why our online personas should be different to what we are in real life. If we make the effort to present ourselves as good, responsible, and respectable citizens in real life, we should also do the same online. There’s no need to be rude when we criticize the actions of certain people or their stand on certain issues.

What About Trolls?

I know there will always be trolls online but they should be the exceptions and not the rule. With responsible online use, trolls can eventually serve a higher purpose of testing the limits of free speech. But in order to achieve that we have to put real value on the content we see online. Let’s use our online personas to teach those who follow us to think critically, to give thoughtful opinions, and to educate ourselves thoroughly so when we do make a stand, we’re standing on something solid and unshakable.

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