libel

By the Time You Read this, I will Be a Criminal.

On October 3, 2012 (in my timezone, which would be early October 2 for most of you), I and millions of internet users in the Philippines have officially become criminals, liable to be jailed for up to 12 years.

I will understand if you don’t care. After all, the Philippines seems like such a small, inconsequential place for most to bother with. But if you believe in the right to free speech, the right to express yourself even when you’re in the minority, then please. Listen, understand. Help us spread the word, get others to condemn this act, for one simple reason: the restricting of one’s freedom to express ideas, thoughts, and opinions, for whatever reason, is wrong.

On October 3, a law called the Cybercrime Prevention Act takes into effect in the Philippines. While this sounds very right and proper, this particular law bans (among other things that should be rightfully banned, like hacking, child pornography, and the like) cybersex and online libel.

Well, you think. Online libel can’t be that bad.

Oh, it gets worse.

The Philippine definition of online libel is best summed up as “anything that can be misconstrued as criticism against any one individual, regardless of whether it is the truth or otherwise”.

Criticizing a corrupt politician constitutes online libel.

Complaining about inefficient administration constitutes online libel.

The problem with the Philippine definition is that online libel is so broad and unspecific that nearly anything you say can be counted as it, as long as it’s in opposition to what the ‘injured’ party says. The fact that it is so broad enables politicians or people in positions of power to exercise this law against people with dissenting opinions or to stamp out critics, regardless of whether the latter is in the right.

And libel is criminalized here. It’s not a civil suit. (This is a throwback to the days of America’s shaky colonial rule over the Philippines, where libel was criminalized to dissuade critics. This was in the 1940s. No one has thought of changing it since.) With regards to curtailing freedom of speech and content, it is in many ways similar to the previously squashed SOPA bill. Even worse, considering the jailtime.

Oh, wait. There’s more. You’re going to love this.

1. Liking, tweeting or resharing said ‘online libel’ will also mean YOU get jailtime, too. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t write the original entry.

2. Posts, likes, and tweets are retroactive. That means they can jail you for posts, tweets, or likes you’ve made BEFORE the law went into effect, as far back as 2009.

3. Sarcasm still counts as libel.

4. The Department of Justice can block your access to the internet or to other computer files without a search warrant.

5. Convictions can mean up to twelve years of jail time or a P1,000,000 fine (about $20,000. Minimum wage is roughly $10 a day, but usually for jobs with a diploma. Actual wages can go 50% lower than stated, and that’s a GOOD wage for most of the poor).

6. Then they can charge you again for another law that bans printed libel, resulting in more jailtime. They do not apply double jeopardy in this case.

Cybersexing is a crime, too. Well, maybe child pornography can be avoided with this, right? Except child pornography has already been addressed by another law, it’s merely reaffirmed here. Owing to the Filipino lawmakers’ penchant for broadness, ‘cybersex’ is literally anything that constitutes “The willful engagement, maintenance, control, or operation, directly or indirectly, of any lascivious exhibition of sexual organs or sexual activity, with the aid of a computer system, for favor or consideration.” Sounds a lot like just plain ol’ pornography, don’t you think? The Philippines, I might add, is an industry geared toward exporting labor. This means husbands / wives are forced to find work abroad for better pay, and do not return home for months.

How did this all start?

Once upon a time, there lived this Senator called Vicente “Tito” Sotto III. He was against the Reproductive Health bill, which if passed, would provide contraceptives and sex education to the poor to minimize overpopulation in the city and infant / maternal death rates.He is a strong backer of the Philippine Catholic Church, which considers contraceptives akin to “abortion” (despite abortion not being a part of the RH bill. It is, in fact, still illegal). The Church has a strong hold in this country, with over 80% Catholics, and funds many politicians.

In Sotto’s speech where he denounces this bill, several bloggers and internet users discovered that he plagiarized text from at least five different U.S. bloggers, including one named Sarah Pope, and from another who was pro-choice, but twisted in his speech to sound anti-choice. Both bloggers expressed dismay at being plagiarized, and he was called out for it. Sotto refused to apologize, and claimed he hadn’t plagiarized because ‘she’s just a blogger’, despite his lawyer confirming that he, in fact, did.

In another speech, Sotto then plagiarized a portion of U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy’s speech, then claimed this was not the case, as the text had been converted to Filipino. Therefore, he argued, it can’t be plagiarized because Robert Kennedy can’t speak Filipino.

You might at this point begin to realize the quality of intelligence of some of the senators here.

Bloggers and internet users refused to back down. Sotto then issues a veiled threat regarding ‘regulating blogging’. It was later revealed that he had inserted an online libel provision to the CyberCrime Prevention Act bill on January 24, 2012, that was not present during previous readings of the bill, which was duly passed with only one dissenting vote from a Senator Guingona.

President Noynoy Aquino then proceeded to sign it into law. The irony is not lost on many of us here. His father, Ninoy Aquino, was an advocate for freedom of speech during the 1970s martial law, and literally gave up his life in the process for it. Ninoy’s popularity is what ushered his relatively inexperienced son into office - only to sign what constitutes as E-Martial law instead.

A couple of senators later came forward to admit that they hadn’t read the amendment clearly, which makes it all the more frightening that they voted for something they didn’t even understand in the first place.

The Reproductive Health bill has been in limbo for nearly fourteen years in the Philippines. Same goes for the Freedom of Information Act, which would ensure government transparency. And yet this bill with its controversial clause was enacted into law within DAYS.

Facebook accounts turn black in protest, the law is trending on Reddit. Human rights groups have condemned this law. Anonymous Philippines has been active. Forbes has spoken out against it. But government here has been notorious for turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the protests of the people, instead pandering to cronies and corruption instead.

Sometimes I can’t help but admire friends living in Western countries. Vote republican or democrat, this labor party or that, but you are still free to express yourselves however you may. Living in a country where religion is the all-powerful, I can no longer say the same. Many people believe this is a ruse to take people’s attention away from the RH bill, and I don’t disagree.

But despite all this, many of my fellow Filipinos refuse to back down, and have resolved to continue posting, liking, tweeting, and resharing what they like, regardless of consequence. Because when you back down, they win. It’s as simple as that.

So for any of you people it will be a normal day at October 3 (or 2), 2012.

I, on the other hand, will be living in October 3, 1970, because this law has just set this nation’s progress at least forty years back.

Be thankful for the freedom that you have, and keep fighting for it.

That’s what we’re doing.

The Cybercrime Prevention Act law.

[ Image credit to Mr. Bawagan, who I will not link to here for reasons fairly obvious in this post.]

EDIT: Thank you for the reblogs! Some people have been asking how to help. Keep spreading the news, sign this petition, and inform your own politicians. The Philippines is a close ally of the United States, and may be influenced in that regard. It is horrifying to imagine how all this is a result of just one senator’s attempt at revenge, our Senate’s lack of understanding of what constitutes internet litigation, and a president’s inability to admit he is ever wrong, despite evidence to the contrary. The Philippine government do not often listen to its people, but they hate public shaming.

EDIT 2: This is just to clarify: Senator Sotto introduced the libel clause on January 24, but the bill itself was voted into law days after the plagiarism accusations against Sotto reached (one of) its peak (shortly after he was accused of plagiarizing from Robert Kennedy). I apologize for the confusion!

by Mark Fowler

Writers frequently ask whether they can mention brand name products and services in their fiction.  The answer is “yes,” provided that you take some common sense precautions.  Indeed, if it were unlawful to include brand names in fiction, countless product references in Bret Easton Ellis’s novel Glamorama would have been expurgated, and David Foster Wallace could never have described in Infinite Jest an alternative present where large corporations purchase naming rights to the calendar years (e.g., “Year of the Whopper,” “Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar,” “Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken,” “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment,” and “Year of Glad”).

Read More →

These are the possibilities that can happen with the current Cybercrime Act. For just sharing or retweeting something online that contains criticisms - you can get jailed for 12 YEARS.

Let me just point out that we need a Cybercrime Prevention Act. However, the inclusion of these problematic provisions on cyber-libel will just curtail a fundamental principle of good governance: CITIZEN PARTICIPATION.

The last time I checked, we were still a democracy—we want empowered citizens, not scared and passive ones.

—Sen. TG Guingona

*For those asking, I was outnumbered in the Senate vote to pass this law. The vote was 13-1.

Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket

Affronted by The Falling Rocket, John Ruskin accused Whistler of “flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face” in the Fors Clavigera. As a leading art critic of the Victorian era, Ruskin’s harsh critique of The Falling Rocket caused an uproar among owners of other Whistler works. Rapidly, it became shameful to have a Whistler piece, pushing the artist into greater financial difficulties. With his pride, finances, and the significance of his Nocturne at stake, Whistler sued Ruskin for libel in defence. In court, he asked the jury to not view it as a traditional painting, but instead as an artistic arrangement…However, his case was not helped when The Falling Rocket was accidentally presented to trial upside down. His explanation of the composition proved fruitless before the judge. The Ruskin vs. Whistler Trial, which took place on November 25 and 26, 1878, was disastrous for Whistler. While he did not lose, he only won a farthing. After all the court costs, he had no choice but to declare bankruptcy. Whistler was forced to pawn, sell, and mortgage everything he could get his hands on.

There’s a strange trend going around of conservative and Christian organizations targeting transgender youth with highly-publicized false accusations, and it’s causing an immense amount of harm. 

At a high school in Colorado, a small group of parents complained earlier this month about a transgender student using the women’s restrooms. The school stood by the girl, saying she had every right to be there. Unsatisfied, the conservative Pacific Justice Institute, a group trying to repeal California’s recently-passed law extending rights to trans students, fabricated a story claiming the girl had been “inherently harassing students” in the bathroom just by being there.

In a similar story out of California last week, a Christian group spread a story about a trans student peeking over the tops of bathroom stalls. The story was later shown to have been fabricated by an angry, anti-transgender parent. 

The Colorado story was spread by conservative outlets like Fox News. Now, the girl has faced death threats and harassment from strangers across the nation — even though her classmates and the school district have asserted that these claims are completely false.

There appears to be a pattern of right-wing groups resorting to targeting trans children — minors — with false, libelous claims of harassment in an effort to stoke fear about the “risk” of granting these students equal access to basic facilities. In the Colorado case, the initial story publicized by the Pacific Justice Institute was picked up by conservative media outlets, including Fox News, some of which eventually published the transgender 16-year-old’s name. Responsible media outlets referred to the teen — who, the school confirmed, did not harass anyone — as Jane Doe, since she is a minor. Doe’s mothers have spoken openly about the intense psychological pressure their daughter was feeling after being targeted by right-wing activists halfway across the country.

These stories have been around for a while now, but they get more shocking every time we revisit them. GLSEN has been in touch with the Colorado student’s family and can help you send the girl a supportive message if you so choose. Above all, though, let this be a reminder that we have to stand up for one another at every opportunity. Nobody should have to go through this hell.

Hello O Vastest of Derps, hope you don’t mind a nifty lecture. I figured your followers might have it come in handy. The whole ‘he who fights monsters’ thing is never fun.

I am not a lawyer. But I went to school to be someone who writes that tricky thing they call news, and we had a very long couple lectures on what constituted libel. Because that is serious shit when you want to be a hard-boiled newspaper type. Some of this may vary depending on where you are but most of it will remain true regardless of exact lattitude and longitude.

Libel, Libelous Remarks and Other Forms Of Defamation

And Why You’re Fucked If You Try To Get Away With This

So, when you write something about someone that is considered to be damaging to their character or standing within the community and you cannot back it up with hard evidence (this is important) you are making a Libelous Remark. If you shout it out loud in public at the top of your teeeny tiny lungs, it’s Slander, but for all intents and purposes this is still DEFAMATION. Defamation doesn’t simply mean cursing at someone, it means that the lies (because the provable truth is legally never defamation) that you have uttered or written have been determined to have harmed a person’s standing within the community, their livelihood or otherwise harmed them. The first two are generally what people go after.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way let’s examine a theoretical. I write an unpleasant thing for instance, accusing Bob of being a horrible child molesting rapist, because that’s a thing you can do on the internet if you’re physically or legally incapable of finding more interesting things to occupy you, like comics. Bob can of course demand that I either prove that what I said is true, or admit that I’m a lying bastard and apologize. But let’s assume I don’t.

If I wrote that bob was a horrible child molesting rapist in a newspaper, and I could not prove it, I would likely be required to print what they call a “retraction” which is a formal adknowledgement of my scandalous wrongdoing and an admission that Bob is not in fact a child molesting rapist as I suggested and that I was totally wrong to say that about him. Not only would I have to print this retraction, I would have to print it in the same place the original words were printed. So if I put those lies about Bob on the front page, my retraction must also be on the front page. I can’t tuck it  away either. If it was in 20 pt bolded all caps the retraction must mirror that. If it appeared above the fold, the retraction will also appear above the fold.

It gets a little confusing if my newspaper is on the internet, but generally it means that I can’t just have an apology on the website somewhere. People have to be aware of it. They have to read it and know what a colossal fuck up I am. Generally I would also have to appease Bob (within reason, Bob isn’t allowed to just snub all attempts to make right the wrong-doing because see the next bit) and the official legal type Judge who at this point has likely made me print the retraction. Yes, at this point Bob has gone to a COURT OF LAW to settle this shit because calling someone a child molesting rapist is a really shitty thing to do and he deserves satisfaction over the matter. Sadly for Bob we do not live in the age where one could simply shoot the offending bullshit-spewer and be done with it.

Proving that you’ve defamed someone is as simple as taking a screenshot. Or a picture. Or having a woodcut made of the screen of your computer, though that’s taking it a little far. Basically if I can prove that you said terrible, unsubstantiated things about me, I can be on that faster than you can say “come at me bro”. There’s a few ways around it, particularly when you are a hard boiled newspaper type, but repeatedly calling Bob a child molesting rapist isn’t really covered by any of them.

Repeating defamatory remarks is also considered to be bad form, as is publishing them without checking your facts or sources, because you have not done your due dilligence and the law frowns on your lazy bullshit. In the event that the law cannot get to the person who originated the linguistic excrement you have been spouting, anonymity and leet haxxors be damned, your head will probably be considered an acceptable subsitute in either of those situations.

TL;DR Talking bullshit about people on the internet where everyone can see it, especially accusing them of crimes they have not committed, can get you taken to court if the person gets tired enough of your shit or simply thinks it would be hilarious to watch you finally get to use all that rope you’ve been eagerly spooling out.

The infamous “McLibel” pamphlet: Co-authored by a police officer

In the UK, the “McLibel” case, involving the not-super-flattering claims in the pamphlet above, was one of the country’s longest-running. (And although McDonald’s won, it was a black eye for the company because a court found that most of the claims in the pamphlet were true.) But here’s the fun part, which only surfaced this week: One of the authors of the pamphlet was an undercover police officer attempting the infiltrate the group that put out the flyer. Oh.

I May Go To Prison For This (Oh Well)

I’m mad. Fuming, in fact. And if you’re online on a regular basis—which you probably are, unless you’re Tito Sotto, it seems—you’ve got to be up in arms as well. This Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 is like a wolf in a very bad sheep costume, hiding behind a pretty name and a few lines of decent of legislation.

Keep reading

Russian tycoon sued for libel over talkshow fight


Britain has stringent libel laws that make it easier to sue for defamation there than in many other countries. Advocates for changing the laws say foreigners often come to Britain to sue each other as “libel tourists.”Russian prosecutors have already opened a criminal assault case against Lebedev, owner of Britain’s Independent and London Evening Standard newspapers, over the incident in which Lebedev punched Sergei Polonsky in the face on prime time television.Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called the assault “hooliganism.”Lawyer Andrew Stephenson, representing Polonsky, said Lebedev had made the matter worse by giving interviews since the incident, including to British media, in which he defended his assault as a justified response to Polonsky’s behavior.”Mr Lebedev seems to be saying in effect that Mr Polonsky got what he deserved. What Mr Polonsky is looking for is a full apology and compensation for the defamation,” said Stephenson.In the incident in September, Polonsky and Lebedev were appearing on a talk show to discuss the economic crisis. Polonsky said he would rather punch someone than discuss financial issues with oligarchs.Lebedev leapt up and punched Polonsky three times in the face, throwing him off his metal stool.Polonsky said in a statement: “Mr Lebedev’s unprovoked and cowardly physical assault on my person in Russia is a matter for the Russian authorities. His unprovoked and cowardly verbal assault on my reputation in England is a matter for the English authorities.”In Moscow, Lebedev’s spokesman Artyov Artyomov said he was unable to comment on Polonsky’s British lawsuit “because we are not aware of what he is up to. We are not following his plans.”


An IDF officer destroys a libel

 A person asks a loaded, biased question  on Quora:

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in 2015: Why is there no condemnation of Israel’s use of flechette projectiles on civilians?

http://www.theguardian.com/world…​IDF used these bombs on civilians in Gaza and no one uttered a word ocondemnation.

Noam Kaiser (Israeli. And a damn proud one too) answered: 

For the same reason there should be no condemnation of Jewish squeezing of live Christian baby blood for Matzos on Passover.

It isn’t true.

I’m an operations officer of an armor brigade in the IDF and participated in Operation Protective Edge.

The type of armament you describe was not used in the operation by a single tank in Gaza. But I suspect the OP [original poster - EoZ] already knew that.

50 minutes later, I dug deeper and now I see exactly what is going on here. Before elaborating, here are two anti-israeli tactics that you (the readers) have just witnessed live:

  1. Take a single event and make it look like common conduct to smear the IDF’s image.
  2. Tell short lies, it will force the Israelis to answer long, and no one will listen to them.

Now, as always, I give Quora users more credit than that, so here is the long truth:
  1. The OP wrote “IDF used these in Gaza” to make you believe this happened in Operation Protective edge, July 2014. The attached article by the Guardian dates to 2009.
  2. Flechettes are an ammunition that in 2009, matched only one type of tank in the IDF used by only one of it’s northern units, Brigade 7 in Lebanon, and the ammo was in use up until a few years ago. It is the oldest tank in the IDF, all others have larger size main guns, and - yes - no flechette ammo.
  3. In Lebanon flechettes were used against Hezbollah, as they were engaged in the valleys of South Lebanon outside of cities and villages.
  4. In December 2008, after an ongoing bombardment of the Israeli south by Hamas rockets, the IDF launched operation Cast Lead.
  5. One of the Brigade 7 regiments was rushed south from the northern front, with the ammo its tanks carried.
  6. On the 14th of January 2009 (third week of the operation), one of the regiment’s tanks, whose commander never served in Gaza and was unaware flechettes were not to be used in Gaza, fired three rounds at Hamas Gunmen. He did not “target” civilians with flechettes.
  7. This tragedy came known to IDF southern command the same day in debrief, and the tanks from the one regiment that had them were ordered to ensure they are not in use, during the operation, which ended three days later.
  8. Note: The IDF made the decision not to use flechettes in Gaza in 2002, this remained in place even after the Israeli Supreme Court concluded in 2003, they were not a weapon banned by any international treaty.
Anyone who knows something of urban warfare knows, that sterile combat is not a real option - especially facing terrorists organizations like Hamas which expose civilians intentionally (more on that later), and unfortunately two civilians were also hit.

Now, the OP would have you believe the following:
  1. Firing flechettes in Gaza is common conduct.
  2. It happened recently.
  3. Civilians are “targeted”.
These are three lies. But it takes time to explain that.

As elaborated earlier, I am an IDF armor corps officer, ranking major. I have served for 5 years in regular service, and another 15 in reserves, which I still do. I served in Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and Lebanon, engaging in Combat against Hamas, and Hezbollah terrorists, in urban setting as well, several times.

I know much more than the OP what the IDF does to avoid civilian casualties and what Hamas does to increase them.

Another officer, British Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded NATO forces in several fronts,  knows much more than me and of course,  more than the OP, about this challenge.  Here is what Kemp had to say about the IDF - and Hamas - in the Gaza conflict of 2009:

"Hamas is Expert at Driving Media Agenda," British Commander Tells U.N. Debate         


Long answer, I know.  But I’m sure you prefer it over short lies.

6

screen couples: Myrna Loy & William Powell: Libeled Lady

From that very first scene, a curious thing passed between us, a feeling of rhythm, complete understanding, an instinct for how one could bring out the best in the other. In all our work together you can see this strange—I don’t know what… a kind of rapport. It wasn’t conscious. If you heard us talking in a room, you’d hear the same thing. He’d tease me a little and a kind of blending emerged that seemed to please people. Whatever caused it, though, it was magical.

Myrna Loy