Defaming Someone In The Internet

Defaming someone is making statement in oral or written form for the purpose of casting aspersions on the character of the person. On many occasions, it is difficult to distinguish between defamatory statement and the right of free expression. Slander is the oral expression of a falsehood to intentionally damage one’s character while libel involves the publishing of an untrue or distorted fact to intentionally injure one’s reputation.

In the Philippines, the persons responsible for libel are – “Any person who shall publish, exhibit, or cause the publication or exhibition of any defamation in writing or by similar means, shall be responsible for the same.” or “The author or editor of a book or pamphlet, or the editor or business manager of a daily newspaper, magazine or serial publication, shall be responsible for the defamation contained therein to the same extent as if he were the author thereof.

I lifted the above quotes from Republic Act No. 4363, the law that further amended Article 360 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. No. 1289 and based on my further readings on the subject, the non-lawyer in me believes that, under our current laws, it is almost impossible to prosecute libel cases involving defamatory articles in the Internet. The news about the court decision junking the country’s first Facebook libel suit and an article entitled “Libel on the Internet under Philippine Law” bear out my belief.

As an Internet user who was once a victim of a defamatory web article, I was hoping for our lawmakers to come out with a legislation that will cover Internet libel. The approved Senate version of the proposed Cybercrime Prevention Act seems to have an answer on a provision in its Section 4C about Content-related Offenses where No. 4 about Libel says “The unlawful or prohibited acts of libel as defined in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, committed through a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future.

We cannot deny the fact that unethical users of the Internet abound. Just look at comments at the bottom of online news and blogs and you could readily see many defamatory statements written by people hiding under “usernames”. Yes, they may claim they are just exercising their rights of free expression but is that really their intention?

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