Anti-cyberbullying bill penalizes social media attacks

By Alexander Villafania

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA—To stem the dangers posed by cyberbullying especially in the days of increased social network usage among Filipinos, two lawmakers are pushing the passage of House Bill 6116 or the “Anti-Cyberbullying Act” into law.

Representatives Irwin Tieng and Michael Velarde of Buhay party list stressed that the emerging use of the Internet among Filipinos has also allowed others to abuse its freedom through cyberbullying.

In particular, the use of smartphones to access social networking sites also allows for easy conduct of cyberbullying tactics. Smartphones with cameras can also be used to capture people's activities without their consent and be posted online.

“Cruelty has been amplified and shifted from the hallways to the Internet, where a nasty, profanity-laced comment, complete with an embarrassing photo can be viewed by the public.”

Cyberbullying are especially painful because they are not easily erased from the internet and can trouble the victim for months and years. In addition to causing substantial psychological harm and emotional distress, cyber bullying can sometimes even lead to physical harm,” Tieng said.

There have been reported cases of cyberbullying in the Philippines with a few victims, being children, stopping attending school.

Meanwhile, Velarde who is the vice chairman of the House Committee on Welfare of Children said that HB 6116 would penalize a violator with no less than P50,000 to P100,000 and imprisonment of six months to six years.

The bill also identifies cyberbullies as those who “engage in social cruelty using the internet or other digital technologies by repeatedly sending offensive, rude, and insulting messages to the victim, including threats of harm or are highly intimidating, or engaging in other online activities tending to cause fear on a victim’s safety.”

“Breaking into an email or social networking account, using the victim’s online identity to send or post vicious or embarrassing material to or about others and posting online or sending digitally altered photos of the victim to others whether the images taken with or without consent intended to humiliate and embarrass the victim are considered criminal offenses of cyber-bullying,” Velarde said in a statement.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has been pushing for legislation on cyberbullying as well as cyberstalking in the Philippines.

A similar bill by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was also pushed in 2011.

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