Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Internet Vigilantism and Witch Hunts

The Philippines is catching up with the fad. Another witch hunt has commenced just late last week against ‘The James Soriano’ article on the Filipino language which Manila Bulletin later pulled out. This is a glaring statement that Filipinos are just as much as hooked to ‘internet witch hunting’ or ‘internet vigilantism’ as our Asian neighbors.

We have seen this in increasing recurrence over the past couple of months. The phenomenon has caught not only the social networking sites but also the tri-media and more scholastic blogging platforms, from infuriated tweets to a full blown analysis of how normal (read: non-public) people like James Soriano and other infamous internet characters should be banished and persecuted for being offensive to the general population. That is indeed a lot of hate.

The concept of cyber bullying is not novel in our shares. In fact, it is a lot more prevalent (and a whole lot hateful… like on a deadly level of hate) in our Asian neighbors. There’s the dog poop girl (South Korea), the Sichuan Earthquake girl (China) and a bunch of other girls…and boys who were publicly persecuted for their acts. The US is not to be left out as they have their own version of internet vigilantism which focuses mainly on fraud, theft and pedophile cases (e.g. 419 Eater for Nigerian scammers and Anonymous/4chan for pedophiles). Some argue that the US hate is more legit than the Asian hate because the former focuses on criminals. But regions aside, it’s safe to say that the internet firestorm is dominating the world.

In the Philippine scenario, there is no explicit legislation on cyber bullying. Sad to say, unlike cyber stalking which is gaining ground in Congress, only one proposal has come from the floor by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago who proposed Senate Bill no. 2677, or the Anti-Bullying School Policy Act, which aims to address the issue of cyberbullying in the Philippines, this despite the fact that no incident of cyberbullying has been officially reported in the country. In the explanatory note, Santiago acknowledged that “a new form of bullying is fast emerging with the advancements of technology.” But as gleaned from the title of the bill, this is a bill to address the bullying in a school setting. The non-student victims would have to wait for a more direct bill.

Otherwise, the only solution available to them is the provision in the New Civil Code, to wit:

Article 19. Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due and observe honesty and good faith.

But while the victims may be civilly compensated for damages, the trauma of being the subject of the witch hunt can never go away. The problem with bringing a suit under this provision is the identification of the perpetrators. If you have offended 34 million Filipino netizens, and they have offended you in return, who will you sue?

A more extensive reading is available here: (Cyberstalking and Cyberbullying in the Philippines by Bernadette A. Mapue)

ENTRY # 11.

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