'Likes', retweets not necessarily libelous: Angara

Posted at 10/04/2012 2:37 PM | Updated as of 10/04/2012 7:51 PM
A Senate reporter teaches Sen. Edgardo Angara what "like," "share," "retweet," and other social media terms mean. Angara is the principal author and sponsor of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012. Photo by Edward Ganal, Senate photographer

MANILA, Philippines - Merely "liking" or sharing anything deemed libelous on social media won't make one liable under the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, according to one of its authors and sponsor in the Senate.

Sen. Edgardo Angara said at a news forum on Thursday that a complainant must prove first that there's a conspiracy among the author of the libelous post and those who liked or shared it to destroy his or her reputation.

"Napakahirap i-prove 'yan," he told reporters. "Wala kayong dapat ikatakot."

Some critics of the law raised the possibility that under its libel provision, those who like, share, or retweet posts deemed libelous would also be charged.

Section 5 of the law penalizes "any person who willfully abets or aids in the comission of any of the offenses" including libel, which critics have assailed as an attack on freedom of expression.

Angara, however, dismissed these concerns. "The anxiety and apprehension over this are exaggerated."

He explained that to for one to be convicted of libel, he or she must be proven to have said something utterly false and malicious against another person.

"Nobody can be charged for expressing his opinion," Angara said.

As protests against the law continue, the senator stressed the need for its libel clause.

He reiterated that it won't curtail freedom of expression.

"The idea is that freedom of speech or of the press does not protect libelous or slanderous statements," Angara said. "One can review the whole history of freedom of speech and press, and libel is not protected by freedom of speech."

He added that other lawmakers who want to get rid of libel must not only repeal the cybercrime law's provision on it.

"The solution is, repeal the basic law of libel in the Revised Penal Code," Angara said.