Can Cyber Martial Law Happen Here?

Riot PoliceCertainly governments have a role in fighting online crime. Indeed, here in the United States federal authorities are becoming more and more aggressive in using the Internet to monitor citizens and non-citizens alike when they fall under suspicion, though there’s plenty of debate around when exactly such cyber tools are used to prove criminal activity or monitor people.

What online security measures governments should take is an especially dicey question in countries with a history of oppression or don’t embrace the kinds of rights that Americans take for granted.

For example, the Philippines recently passed the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which the Electronic Freedom Foundation describes as “troubling.” Among other things, it cites a libel provision that criminalizes anonymous online criticism. Another section allows the country’s Department of Justice to block access to “computer data” that it finds to be in violation of the act. In other words, the group says, the department could shut down, without a court order, a website it feels is hosting libelous speech. It brings to mind the way Argentinian strongman Juan Peron dealt with criticism in the 1940s: He burned down newspaper offices.

Ironically, activists used text messaging to help organize the mass demonstrations that ultimately led to the removal of President Joseph Estrada in 2001.

Whether the act is unconstitutional is an issue for the Filipino courts. But its wording raises a compelling question: What would cyber martial law look like? What would happen if a government felt threatened enough to flip the big red switch that would cut off its citizens from the Internet? China does just this in fits and starts. When it sees search terms it doesn’t like, it blocks them.

The EFF contends that the Filipino act “will set back decades of struggle against the darkness of ‘constitutional dictatorship’ and replace it with ‘cyber authoritarianism.” Filipino groups fighting for repeal say the law “unduly restricts the rights and freedoms of netizens and impacts adversely on an entire generation’s way of living, studying, understanding and relating.”

It’s a dramatic debate in a country that knows what a lack of freedom feels like and has learned how to fight for it. Where in the world will this fight take place next?

Could it happen here? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Image: za Geex

17 Responses to “Can Cyber Martial Law Happen Here?”

  1. Yes, it could happen here, if the Constitution continues to be ignored. We need to repeal the Patriot act and we need to prosecute officials that overstep their authority. We need to get rid of the Obama administration and Holder or it WILL happen here, and soon.

  2. It is already happening and without any law and what it is even worst…nullifying the first amendment. I know of some web sites which censor the comments and delete what they don’t like or do not post the comment at all…good example is Disqus which manages Ron Paul’s web site. If you make a comment in one of the blogs which Disqus monitors you will see a small window pup up saying that the comment will await revision by the administrator. In a 100% free society where freedom of speech and freedom of the press is practiced that would not happen; comments should be posted as written by the author. This is true for several blogs I know; so, in a way we are one step closer to full censorship in the Internet.

    • Cicuta, there’s a difference between what is happening in the Phillipines and what you are describing. Individual blog owners have the ability to manage what is and isn’t said on their sites, this isn’t an attack on free speech but a protection of private property. Blog owners have registered and either own or rent the domain space, making it theirs to maintain and do with as they will. The non-cyber equivalent to this is you saying that it’s alright if the neighborhood kids make chalk-drawings on your sidewalk and washing them off when a teenager draws you doing illicit things with a horse. There’s nothing wrong with exercising control over what is yours.

      • Jimmy Lozano

        Let me see Scott…
        I’m totally agree with CICUTA almost the 99.99% all of his comments like this one…, particularly this one, because I did suffer the same situation he describe in his comments.
        But, I can Say… I’m Agree with your comment too, because is valid everything you said in the private sector, then… why the private companies like DICE blog allow to put comments in their articles???, because if they don’t like the comment (even if is true or false) they will cut everything that don’t FOLLOW their principal policies.
        But, What happen with the real people that use DICE blog to search a Job because they are Unemployed…???, because if they are reading this blog is with the HOPE to FIND a GOOD JOB or at least A JOB, but when they realize that all those articles on the blogs are in the way of the PRINCIPAL POLICIES of this company, and DOESN’T HELP and NOTHING to find a Job… Then… this is The Real Problem.

      • Scott,
        The analogy you mention is actually a wrong example and I tell you why:
        It is true that we can do with our “property” as we wish and defend it; however, we are talking here to the respect and freedom of writing and the thought. If I write an article and ask for feedback (Comments) then I should know ahead of time what to expect. Now, if I cannot take criticism of any kind why writing and ask for feedback? Now, the example you mention involves profanity (illicit things as you put it) and profanity as you put it falls under the legal term of “Torts” (if you are familiar with law’s terms) and punishable by law. Anyone can draw on a sidewalk or buildings (graffiti) but it is punishable by law because falls under the damage to property; however, in the case at hand, blogs comments, there is no damage to property. Matter of fact, violation of some one’s writing is punishable by law (copyright law) and any one can copyright anything he/she writes.
        Furthermore, what is happening in Philippines, or any other country, is not my concern and should not be any ones concern in fact. Independent countries can do as they wish with-in their borders under “International Law” and should be respected as such. If people in Philippines riot against some liberties they think they should have… it is their business and not ours.

      • The criteria of the material was beside the point. If I own and maintain a blog and someone posts something I find objectionable, I am completely within my right to remove said post, regardless of my criteria. If I decide that any post on my blog that contains more than 40 vowels will be blocked, there’s nothing to prevent me from doing so. If a statement of these criteria is established in a site Terms of Use, then I could go as far as to say “If you use more than 40 vowels in a posting your account will be removed.” There are a few qualifiers (race, gender, sexuality of the poster) that prove to be exceptions.
        A posting, especially an improperly credited posting on a website is hardly valid of a copyright, and removal of even copyrighted material isn’t considered a breach.
        Unwanted material placed on a website against it’s terms of use, or without permission of the site administrator is considered defacement, is considered damage to assets, and is punishable by law.
        The rest of your argument is out of scope.

  3. Mark Ferrer,

    It is not that “if people do not like the blog they don’t have to read it” it is the right the people have in commenting what they think and for the moderator, if any, should place the comments as they were written as a token of respect. If the blog is going to censorship comments then the purpose of asking for comments is defeated. I make comments in several blogs which don’t moderate at all being one of them the NY Times and many others…the comments are posted as written by the commentator. The problem with some blogs is that they don’t “probably” like the truth…the naked truth, and hence the moderator deletes part of the comments and in some cases the whole comment; then, why ask for comments? To say: “if people do not like the blog they don’t have to read it” is not an intelligent answer because if people comment on the article is because they like it and want to voice their thoughts. By the same token, I could say: If Dice and other blogs do not like some comments; then, why write articles and ask for comments? .

    • That’s a fair comment, Cicuta. Obviously, people have the right to say what they want. But I’m often curious about people who regularly read and respond to blogs that they just don’t seem to like very much. From what I can see, it happens on most blogs, at least the ones that I read.

  4. Regarding DISQUS, it is true it is a private company for social networking but in my comment, based on facts, I mentioned the Ron Paul’s blog which was run by his administration. The blog had several limitations and mainly not enough space to allow for comments longer than 500 words; then he contracted out to DISQUS which allows more space for comments but they do not have wrap around and hence the comments go to infinity. I really like Ron Paul’s articles and in fact I did vote for him in the primaries in California; so, he should get rid of the moderator and allow comments as written by the commentators. Being himself a politician and an advocate of our Constitution he should respect the first amendment. By the way, I stop making comments in his blog.

  5. By the way, TV media is also censored and manipulated by the government with the exception of Fox and in the journalism arena it is well known. Also, the government monitors a lot of stuff in the Internet, the problem is that most people are unaware. The present administration also ordered 35 drones to spy on American people…Is that freedom? What about the Patriot Act? .

    • Jimmy Lozano

      Hey Cicuta… I don’t Understand…
      When U said:
      —-“” with the exception of Fox “”—-
      that mean, Fox news, tv, etc. is not censored because they are agree with everything in the government…???
      At my Knowledge Fox News is a 100% partner with the Republican Party, but not with the Government in the House at this time.

      • Hey Jimmy,
        All TV media is censored by the government and controlled…a very well-known fact with the exception of Fox News which airs news not covered by other TV companies. Fox News is not a puppet of the government either and in their news they say it as it is like it or not…A wonderful TV channel and an example to good journalism.

        • Well, with all respect, I have to disagree with that. If the government was so determined to muzzle the media, Fox would be the one under the most pressure right now. And while I would never argue that the media, including Fox, isn’t easily manipulated, there’s no wholesale censorship going on, either.

  6. SCOTT,
    Look very close in the mirror and ask yourself if you are 100% aware of what our government has done and is doing regarding citizens’ rights. I can take you back in history to the late 1930s and early 1940s when Herbert Huber prosecuted people whom had “Socialist” tendencies and hence the famous happening in our history: “The Hollywood’s Black List”. Then H. Huber was tapping secretly every single member of the cabinet including FDR. Also FDR was tapping secretly member of his cabinets. From those times on, our government has done lots of things which go against our Constitution “secretly”. What about Richard Nixon? His problem was that he was caught with the tapping of the Water Gate scandal and thanks to Frank Willis, a security guard who help to uncover the wire telephone tapping …and the story goes on and on till the indictment of Richard Nixon. Then what about ex-president Clinton? He fled the country, along with thousands of traitors, to avoid the selective service draft which in those days was mandatory – He was a fugitive for a long time and what was his punishment? To be elected president of the USA after President Gerald Ford pardon every single fugitive whom fled to other countries to avoid the draft.
    I tell you this honestly: I rather have laws which forbid certain acts, as in a socialist society, which tell people up front what they can and cannot do than being spied on me or be arrested, tortured, and killed as is the mandate of the “The Patriot Act” in actuality.
    Now, I am going to jump the gun here: I know, you will say why I live here instead of a socialist country? That is a negative reaction which most people come up with without realizing that “our Constitution” allows for freedom to choose any religion or dogma as well as to speak and write freely; however, if those liberties are not going to be followed precisely then we live in a hypocritical society.

  7. Jimmy Lozano

    Well… Once Again… I need to tell… I’m 99% agree in all CICUTA comments either way if are historical comments or today’s comment…

    But in the case of Scott… I found one phrase of him that I don’t Understand:
    —-“” If I own and maintain a blog and someone posts something I find objectionable, I am completely within my right to remove said post, regardless of my criteria. “”—-

    First Q, Why the PRIVATE sector need to release and article in PUBLIC sector with the ALLOW of public comments and CUT the comment’s that the PRIVATE sector DON’T LIKE…???
    TO ME is like: some kind the SUPPRESSION with all the right.

    Second Q, Why you need to remove the post regardless of your criteria…???
    that means that you are agree with the post BUT your BOSS tell you to CUT OFF…???
    TO ME is like: go to SUPPRESS and DON’T ASK why… that’s the law and your payment.