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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

When Running Code in Filipino Part 6: Rough Consensus


A wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

-Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address.


In conclusion, a memorandum circular by the National Telecommunications Commission, will be “ultra vires,” or outside its mandate. This document has shown that the Electronic Commerce Act is the more appropriate law to follow in this instance.

The Electronic Commerce Act has clearly defined what is data, how it is received and transmitted and how to secure it. RA 8792 already has laid down the foundation for what is acceptable in electronic commerce in the Philippines and though not explicit, New Media whether it is only about ringtones for mobile phones, fall under this category. The Department of Trade and Industry clearly should take precedence in this matter as it is an affair of commerce and trade.

Hence, why should there be an added expense to deploy “online content”? Why should Government knock itself out trying to police content this way? It is one step closer for NTC to police skype. Imagine how silly it would be to require a license to call your sister on skype. We don’t need a Ministry of Truth.

The dangerous provision of the circular, particularly allowing access to servers without a court order is most troubling. It took 10 years for an Internet-Censorship Act in America to fail and this may be the dawn of an Internet Censorship campaign in the Philippines. Given the political climate and given how much of our people are clueless about the Internet and protecting Freedom of Speech online, it will be a never ending battle, at least in the immediate future. Now more so than ever we need to guarantee Internet rights, which is to say, we need to guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of expression doesn’t get trampled upon.

Thus, there must be a local chapter of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, maybe a Freedom Foundation, organized to help defend free speech and free expression.

What the NTC should be focusing on is how to preserve Network Neutrality, which is of greater public interest rather than this. It should be focusing on how to help the telecom industry migrate to faster wireless broadband. It shouldn’t worry itself over the price of SMS or ringtone, which market forces can clearly thrive in and will serve public interest.

Likewise, Lawmakers should step forward. A rethinking of Defamation Law, of a Freedom of Information Act is needed. We need better protection for free speech and free expression to ensure that the collaborative mechanism that empowers millions online would continue to benefit tomorrow’s generation. After all, the Philippines of tomorrow should never be, 1984. In this, do we have at least, rough consensus?

Acknowledgement

A shout out also goes to @JimAyson and @nicknich3 for pointing out links to Davos. Thanks.

Though this document is my opinion, I would like to acknowledge @jenijenjen, @bigenya, @sofmi, Ding, Nick and the technical staff, contributors and editors of Filipino Voices for their insights and comments.

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