SY 2011-2012, First Semester
- The Propriety of TV Hosts’ Inviting Viewers to Follow Them to Particular Social Communications Networks and Blog Sites
- The Right to Expose Wrongs Via One’s Own or Private Website
- WON private persons may compel repositories of Philippine jurisprudence not to publish cases affecting them, on the ground that such unauthorized publication is a violation of their right to privacy.
The Propriety of TV Hosts’ Inviting Viewers to Follow Them to Particular Social Communications Networks and Blog Sites
This reaction comes at a time when I am just blooming into a legally enthusiastic neophyte explorer of cyberspace. My first lessons in lotus and excel were patiently endowed by my office colleagues, staff and secretaries. My three now professional offsprings whom I used to teach in the 80’s were my 512kb computer tutors in the 90’s. Just recently, I forced myself to open a facebook account just to monitor my daughter and son working abroad. Last night, I did finally begin to appreciate this cyber thing called social media. And at twelve this morning, I am now steadily and confidently finding my way in this mind-boggling but proving to be very interesting blogsites. Thanks to my professor Atty. Berne Guerrero for serving as the compelling, irresistible force for me to upgrade my internet literacy standing…oh and more importantly to be able to earn that very very challenging Technology and the Law “student standing” (at this point).
The Big Question: Is it appropriate for TV hosts to invite viewers to follow them to a specific social medium and blogsite? Or in legal parlance: Whether or not, the practice of tv network hosts to direct viewers to follow them to a particular social medium and blogsite is appropriate if not tenable.
Curiously enough, I tried to find out first how many blogsites there are in cyberspace worldwide, what they stand for and why people access them, how bloggers participate in those social media websites and blogsites.
Of course the social media networks, websites and blogsites as best-source-of-“globally relevant” information is at this point already out of the question.
The prime objective therefore is to find out why people access or have to access social media and blogsites? What are the legal implications of engaging, participating and inviting the participation of ordinary people in the intelligent discussion or exchange of views on brewing or seething issues worldwide or nationwide via those social networks? Can such media duly, unduly or adversely influence people’s beliefs and inclinations or compromise their privacy and security?
I. Why People Get Hooked to Social networks and Blogsites
The main reasons why the cyberspace social networks thrive:
- To have “a great home away from home for organizations and groups looking to fill the social void.”
- To allow “professional networking, to help them find a job, discover sales leads, connect with potential business partners.”
- To make friends or share media like photos, videos and music, entertainment.
- To invite friends to join there and search for friends even elementary classmates
- To share information depending on each group’s varied interests.
II. Dangers to Privacy and Security (from Wikipedia)
Here are some recorded unpleasant experiences in social networking and blogging. Note that the following are actual incidents involving Tweeter sites. (for details, please refer to the write-ups in No. IV.)
- Quoting tweets in ads directed specifically to the user,;
- falsified tweets including sexually explicit and drug-related messages,
- a famous person’s account receving 200 malicious subscriptions,
- security breach of tweeter,
- “policy to notify users about law enforcement and governmental requests for their information, unless we are prevented by law from doing so”,
- “exploit was then re-used to post pop-up ads and links to pornographic sites”;
- “ the virus was spread by people doing it for “fun and games”, but noted it could be exploited by cybercriminals”;
- gossip posted on Twitter about Giggs’ private life, causing conflict relating to privacy injunctions;
- a blogger called “Mr Monkey” who allegedly posted libellous statements about three local councillors.”;
- malicious users could update someone else’s status page by using SMS spoofing.
III. My Viewpoint
Limited as I am with the above Tweeter-related (the other social networks may have even worse legal entanglements at this stage) incidents of violation of privacy and security rights, I am inclined to proffer the idea that it may not after all be appropriate for a tv host to direct his viewers to follow him to a particular or a specific social network or blogsite.
First, by doing so, the tv network is infringing on the constitutional right of the viewer to his freedom or right of expression, to choose the manner or the medium where the viewer prefers to express his thoughts or opinion.
Second, the issues may happen to be seething or enraging and hence the heated challenges of the host may place the innocent viewer in an irresistible situation to jump into a matter within a second, and without thinking enter those blogsites, with his own free will muddled and his wisdom blinded by the instant desire to speak his mind nothwithstanding the slanderous dangers that he maybe dragged into.
Third, the incessant and explicit direction of the tv host to his viewers to go to a specific social network easily makes him unwittingly liable for placing the viewer vulnerable to cyberspace crime. Take note that the tv station has no control over those social networks and blogsites.
Lastly, the tv networks can not claim the novelty of the cyberblogs should any legal suit beset them. The relevant quasi-delict provisions of our civil law will certainly find application on this scenario.
In the light of the above, it maybe worthwhile for the tv hosts or the tv network itself to observe self-restraint in explicitly specifying the websites or blogsites where the viewer can interact. The best preventive measure to avoid the aforementioned possible repercussions is to always place a disclaimer whenever blogsites are mentioned. Another remedy is for the tv station to enter into an agreement with the cyber organization to the effect that Anti-Hacking laws, relevant electronic commerce laws by the host country and the Philippines be invoked in those agreements thereby protecting the privacy and security rights of the blogger viewer, the tv host and the station itself.
I have no doubt, lux et law will go together to safeguard the welfare of people in this our borderless world.
The Right to Expose Wrongs Via One’s Own or Private Website
“The concept of the writ of Habeas Data has been embedded as a direct constitutional right. The scope of this writ vary from country to country; but in general, it is designed to protect by means of an individual complaint presented to a constitutional court the image, privacy, honor, information, self-determination and freedom of information of a person.” – ( lifted from the speech of former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, at the UNESCO Policy Forum and Organizational Meeting of the Information for all Program(FAP), Philippine Committee; 19 November,2007)…Thus do we find the meaning of the writ, the latest remedy or tool to guarantee and preserve a person’s person; recently introduced into our own country where there prevails unfettered freedom of expression via the media of television, broadcast, print and lately through the social networks, through any one’s own website and/or blogsite.
While Europe has recognized this remedy in the last three decades already (proof is Europe’s 108th Convention on Data Protection which happened in 1981 as mentioned also by the former Chief Justice in his speech); the said writ has not found application in the Philippine justice system until the Supreme Court’s formulation of AM-08-1-16-SC dated Feb. 2, 2008.) Such obviously resorted to, in keeping with today’s extensive use of the so-called cybersites .
Cyberage truly has come, positively and/or negatively; impacting on a person’s core sensitivities; that is, upon his public image, honor, privacy, human dignity. In a matter of seconds, one finds himself made or unmade, created or broken by wholesome information, comments or opinions on one hand; and on the other hand, false, malicious pronouncements meant to malign a person’s person; done over one or two or more cybersites. Indeed one can not turn his head away from the bane and boon of computer literacy, websites or blogsites. It is interesting to note that at this point, there is still a small number of men and women who have acquired cyber savvy, if only to avoid being stupefied by the fast turn of cyber events, or to be able to stay on their feet to safeguard their privacy, honor, image or reputation and other rights as a Filipino citizen.
The aforementioned brings us to the other side of the coin, can any one use the cybermedia as a mere reactive remedy? Or as a proactive move to prevent any injustice, wrong or deception or corruption affecting a particular group, or sector, or the whole citizenry ? Either way, a person is protecting himself not only from the improper collection and publication of data about himself but also from the vicious cycle of men deceiving men. More importantly, he merely is shielding himself from unjust acts by men in government, either by those in uniform or by those in private garb who deliberately are depriving him as an unsuspecting or simple citizen directly or indirectly of his right to his person, liberty and life . Stated simply, can an ordinary citizen expose dishonesty, excesses or corruption in government or in private corporations or in any organizations via today’s much utilized social media networks? To what extent and at what price?
Before delving into the legal issue, let us dissect first the anatomy of today’s Philippine justice system in relation to the almost democratically or completely unregulated and sometimes tryrranical use of the various mass media; be it cable or local television, broadcast, print or the so-called social media networks and private websites and blogsites; from the point of view of a person who has personally witnessed four presidencies or five judiciaries or five congresses.
Today’s governance and justice system has not significantly changed. Good and competent public servants and statesmen have certainly come and gone…at least two administrations since the seventies are obvious suspects in terms of corruption-less governance and one is a victim of the wide opportunities of corruption exposed via the cybermedia. With that qualification, we may group the Filipino citizenry as belonging to three strata, according to the degree of protection of their rights to privacy, honor, public image, and general protection from invasion of their rights to their person, property, life and liberty. They are as follows:
1.The Most Protected Strata
To the most protected strata belong the politicians, local or national, the showbiz personalities and to a certain extent the religious sects. They are of course the prominent figures and faces, whether or not they have acquired the mastery of the use of the various forms of mass massmedia; as today’s mediamen are very very much advanced in initiative and foresight, if not admiringly proactive. They can immediately see a crack of governance here and there; a breaking news in the local or global spectrum, and a scoop or buzz almost everyday in the glitz world. Of course, through technological advances in communications and journalism. The citizens who belong to this strata are the ones who are glorified, dignified and at one time or another villified by no less than the same rightfully unfettered and sometimes unjustly-allowed power of mass media. Lately, those in this strata are the ones who are positively or adversely treated by the earlybird private blogsites. By using the said media, as they have them at their disposal whether because they have the resources to buy them with impunity or the free opportunity to use them, those belonging to this strata have definitely more in life in terms of protection of their persons and rights.
2. The Aware, Alive and Vigilant Who-know- their- rights Strata
To this strata, belong those who, equipped with their education, have the courage to seek the help of media entities and personalities; or the streets, their cellphones, facebook and the like… to complain, to be heard, to share the truth (ot untruth), in their desire to seek redress, to air their grievances, to protect their rights to privacy, information, expression.
3. The Often-overlooked (or neglected) Strata
Belonging to this strata, realistically, are those who have less in life, less money, less connections, no permanent houses but remain to be happy even without their teeth, without a limb, or with poor eyesights. They don’t even realize that they don’t have the means to protect themselves when their honor, image, and privacy are violated. And may be because they don’t even know they have those rights. But to the mind of this writer, the reason is that the Filipino by culture is so resilient, he can always adjust even to the worst devastations; of their property, their livelihood, of their honor. Pathetic but happening.
Today we find ourselves with the above categorization having undergone no substantial change over time but with radical changes in the legal front fast shaping up, seen to bring relief to the nation. It is noteworthy to mention that the latest important piece of legislation on the matter of right to information The advent of information technology clearly is an opportunity for those in the second and third strata to be afforded, in real time, of the protection of their rights and the affordance of the fruits of the democratic ideology; fair and just, without trampling upon the rights of of those who are not in the limelight, of the educated but poor and of those who have no means to protect themselves. There is therefore the impelling timeliness of bringing out to the open, practices which directly or and indirectly thwart the individual’s right to life, liberty, property, privacy, everything that collectively make up the wholeness of a person. One sure way is to use the communication technologies in our hands today to expose the wrongs, malpractices, frauds, dishonesty, corruption; not only in government but in private enterprise and relevant organizations through the social media networks and blogsites. The more every one and every thing becomes transparent, the more social, economic and legal gains we can derive.
The collection, compilation, publication, broadcasting, on-line dissemination of legally acquired information will have to be the standard. I do subscribe however to usage of those modern and fast mass media to expose the unscrupulous, recalcitrants and lawbreakers who have in the past performed acts to the disadvantage and at the expense of the basic rights of the strata most affected, those who have less in life. While today in the books of law, except for the criminal provisions against slander or libel, there are really no specific statutes yet as screens of protection from irresponsible usage of the personal websites and blogsites, written, audio or video, the positive side of this discourse is that for as long as exposes of government officials and dishonest private business practices, as obviously patent, are brought out into the open through the aforesaid media, the brave at heart can calculatedly initiate the revelations. After all, the time and tested expression “the truth will set us free” can and always can find application. Thus those web and blog sites can be potently instrumental in cleansing government of officials in cahoots with private business practitioners who manage to do things with impunity.
WON private persons may compel repositories of Philippine jurisprudence not to publish cases affecting them, on the ground that such unauthorized publication is a violation of their right to privacy.
The dawning of cyberage is just beginning to impact on our legal system. On a global scale, our country may not really be a late bloomer but in comparison with the other countries we maybe lagging already.
Sometime in 2008, as a freshman law student, when I was for the first time reading cases on rape, libel, heinous crimes, homicidal acts of children, family estate rows, incapacity of men to perform or deliver marital acts/obligations, victims of pedophilia, and other analogous cases, I was already wondering how easily those cases can be accessed to by any tom, dick or harry. While criminals upon conviction are automatically deprived of their civil rights, how about their victims whose names and reputation are unwittingly dragged during the trial and further on after the trials, repeatedly and sensationally, into further damnation by no less than mass media itself? Hurt inner feelings are most of the time unfathomable but our sensibilities tell us something is wrong. In the Vizconde incident, in the Maggie dela Riva story, in the Bubby Dacer killing, in the Flor Contemplacion case, there is no iota of doubt that someone ’s right to privacy was prejudiced, someone’s reputation and dignity was trampled upon. While television, radio and the broadsheets had benefitted from the sensationalism of those so-called harbingers of good news, on the dark side, the unprotected names/persons had to endure the indiscriminate intrusion into their privacies, seemingly undertaken without impunity. Somehow we are faced with a questionable conclusion that all these years the foregoing cases happened with the said media observing only lightly the journalistic principle of limitation.
Today’s modern age is foreboding. Cyberage has been taking a devastating toll on people’s feelings, names and reputation. If the traditional forms of mass media had somehow became sensitive and responsibly practiced the ethical principle of limitation, what about those domains or websites and lately blogsites? What self-imposed limitations or state-imposed regulations are they observing?
The best answer ironically comes from no less than those cyber information sites. In less than half an hour of surfing, a cyber picture is created in one’s mind:
In the US where Bill Gates was born and where the first and all the succeeding fantastic cyber developments had their debuts, the American Legislatures (national or federal) have already taken the cue:
“Many states have laws to protect the confidentiality of victims of crime. Most of these laws relate to specific groups of victims: sexual assault victims, domestic violence victims, abused or neglected elderly or disabled adults, missing persons, hate crime victims, and child victims. Confidentiality laws exist to encourage the reporting of offenses, and to prevent the re-victimization of the crime victim through publicity, unwarranted intrusion upon the victim’s privacy, and insensitive treatment by the media. ( Source: National Center for Victims of Crime, Legislative Database.)
In Europe, the cudgel is taken by the British government. In a speech entitled “Security and Freedom in the Cyber age – Seeking the Rules of the Road”, delivered on 04 February 2011 to the Munich Security Conference, Foreign Secretary William Hague of Great Britain sees “the “darker side to cyberspace that arises from our dependence on it.” Although the direction of the paper was on national security, he echoed the position of his country with “seven principles that should underpin future international norms about the use of cyberspace”, with two centering on “Ensuring that cyberspace remains open to innovation and the free flow of ideas, information and expression; and “The need to respect individual rights of privacy xxx”.
Whatever comes out from the initiatives of the two great nations on the matter of protection of individual privacy rights, we can surely look forward to and follow suit; our cultural divergence from them notwithstanding.
The big question however still persists: at the moment what kind of protection are crime victims entitled to under the Philippine legal system? As a student of law, and in full recognition of that inviolable privacy right due each and every Filipino, i know that the guaranty is very much enshrined in no less than the Bill of Rights of the fundamental law of the land, in Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code and in Article 26 of our Civil Code; proof only that the State has not overlooked such right.
But the advent of cyberage so it seems is demanding a radical government action to ensure that that the said latest form of mass media is not abused by individuals or parties whose sensitivities are not focused on the inherent right to privacy of man. For one thing the benefits of cyberpublication and free exchange of opinions outweigh the darker aspects of such medium. The stark reality however hovers over us all, the destructive side of fast or real-time publication, intended or unintended, has the capacity to injure human feelings and destroy man himself.
While the legal repositories maybe of direct use only to us men and women of law, we should not lose sight of the mental anguish that arise from the harmful effects or toll of irresponsible publication of criminal or civil cases impacting on a person. A renowned Englishman, Lord Howell has written, as quoted by Foreign Minister Hague, , “for better or worse we are destined to be all connected (by cyber technology), rich and poor, developed and developing, benign and malign, small and mighty”.
Yes cyberage is here to stay.
This writer therefore takes the position that legal repositories must not be compelled to altogether remove from their publications made available to the public, jurisprudence that serve their intended educational purpose; and for general information of the private citizen who may, at one time or another be exposed to a legal situation. We just have to have our sensibilities to handle sensitive publication.
From an article entitled PRIVACY LAW IN THE USA, 1997; written by Mr. Ronald B. Sandler, here are some data which may serve as inputs for the state.
Privacy is the expectation that confidential personal information disclosed in a private place will not be disclosed to third parties, when that disclosure would cause either embarrassment or emotional distress to a person of reasonable sensitivities. Information is interpreted broadly to include facts, images (e.g., photographs, videotapes), and disparaging opinions.
From Wikipedia lets us look at the issue in another perspective:
Public disclosure of private facts arises where one person reveals information which is not of public concern, and the release of which would offend a reasonable person. Unlike libel or slander, truth is not a defense for invasion of privacy.” Disclosure of private facts includes publishing or widespread dissemination of little-known, private facts that are non-newsworthy, not part of public records, public proceedings, not of public interest, and would be offensive to a reasonable person if made public.
The doctrine of false light holds:
“One who gives publicity to a matter concerning another before the public in a false light is subject to liability to the other for invasion of privacy, if (a) the false light in which the other was placed would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and (b) the actor had knowledge of or acted in a reckless disregard as to the falsity of the publicized matter and the false light in which the other would be placed.”
To achieve our purpose of regulating the usage of cybermedia, the following is an enumeration of examples of US state legislation on the matter of protecting an individual’s privacy:
- Withholding of certain details from reports such as the names of minor children, crime victims’ names or information not materially related to particular news reports release of which might, for example, harm someone’s reputation publication that places a person in a false light, which is similar to defamation
- Restricting of the release of the name or other identifying information about the victim
- Laws regarding the release of information by courts, law enforcement, medical facilities, social service agencies and other government agencies.
- Dakota state laws that prohibit the media from publication or broadcast of a victim’s identity, photo, address or similar identifying information establishes a civil action for damages for publicizing or broadcasting the name, picture, address or identification of any child victim or other person involved in a child abuse proceeding.
- Pennsylvania’s law only states that the legislature “urges the news media to use restraint” in revealing the identity or address of child victims.
- In many states, the identity and the address of a victim of sexual assault is confidential. Many states prohibit the publication of such information.
- States such as Alaska provide that a sexual assault victim will be referred to in all public court records by her initials.
- In Texas, the victim is given a pseudonym on request to the court (although the victim’s name is still released to the defendant and the defense attorney). Thereafter, the victim may not be required to disclose her or his name, address or phone number.
- In West Virginia, the identity of a sexual assault victim may not be released prior to an indictment. After indictment, a minor victim may still have his or her identity protected upon request to the court.
- Nevada law creates a civil action for damages for the disclosure of confidential information regarding a sexual assault victim.
- States like Pennsylvania are giving individuals who have been the victims of domestic violence or stalking the option of blocking their phone numbers from being revealed through the popular telephone caller identification services sometimes referred to as “Caller-ID.”
There are exceptions to the confidentiality laws. A state may permit the defendant or the defense attorney to have access to the information. It may allow a victim services agency to have access to certain information in order to provide services to the victim or to the victim’s family. Most states’ paroling authorities keep victim impact statements confidential from inmates and/or their counsel. States often allow researchers access to confidential files, although the law ordinarily requires that the information identifying the victim(s) be deleted first. All states have some sort of mandatory abuse reporting law, which is not changed by the existence of a confidentiality requirement.
The earlier we regulate cyberspace publications, the most effective our generation will be in utilizing the fruits of computerization without violating the inherent right to privacy of a person. Man can always ensure it controls its own creation, lest it control him.
No, the repositories must be given the freedom to maintain and/or publish those law cases. But yes, without sacrificing a person’s privacy.