Sep 9, 2007
Yesterday I put up a short commentary about the Boy Bastos (literally translates to lewd boy or rude boy, depending on context) issue. I just breezed through the links, and didn’t really read in-depth. I’ve decided to revisit this issue, with a more objective perspective.
Let me highlight the press release published in the Philippine Senate’s official website.
Sure, the press release itself is lacking, in terms of having a grasp of the actual concepts behind the sites and applications involved. For instance, the Boy Bastos site was referred to as providing “access to a YouTube,” (emphasis mine) as if YouTube were an object itself. However, the ratonale behind the whole thing is noble, I would think (if a bit misguided).
Senator Loren Legarda is known to be a staunch advocate of women’s rights. And it is for this reason, among others, I believe, that she is popular among her constituents (she topped in the Senate elections in 2001 and 2007). True enough I, for one, would definitely want to protect my wife and kids from the dangers that lurk around the corner. And I’m pretty sure other people would feel this way.
Legarda is author of Senate Bill 1375, the proposed Anti-Computer Pornography Act, which seeks to reinforce the war on electronic smut.
Under the bill, peddlers of online porn and other “indecent materials” would be punished with up to six years in prison or a fine of as much as P500,000, or both.
The bill provides that it would be illegal for any remote computer facility operator, electronic service provider or electronic bulletin board service provider to knowingly transmit, offer or attempt to send any communication that contains indecent material, to a person under 18 years of age.
It would also be unlawful for them “to allow access to transmit indecent material to a minor.”
However, in terms of proposing legislation, the Internet is a difficult thing to handle. It’s like a two-pronged tongue. It’s like beauty and the beast in the same person (or Jekyll and Hyde?).
The Internet is a powerful tool and medium that espouses and personifies freedom of information. This is freedom both as in free beer and freedom as in free speech. This means information is both free to get, and free for you to disseminate and distribute, as you please.
So with the Internet, the flow of information is largely unrestricted. People exchange ideas freely. People communicate faster. This is the very reason that some regimes try to curb, censor and even ban this medium–for the very reason that they fear dissent among their citizens. In most cases, the Internet still prevails.
However, along with the beauty of freedom comes the ugly side (which is also a profitable side, depending on your perspective). Pornography has been known to be a driver of technology, and along with the freedom of information that the Internet gives us is also the freedom to transmit less desirable content and information (again, desirability is subjective).
So the question now is how to combat the evils brought about by this new medium, like exploitation of women, children, and individuals in general, but still keeping in mind that the Internet is a different animal that cannot be contained by space.
Here’s what I propose
* Educate your kids on the dangers of the Internet. Teach them not to share personal and private information online. Teach them not to haphazardly post photographs online. Teach them to only talk to trusted people online. Teach them to be responsible with what they read and watch online.
* Educate parents (most important!). Teach them how to use the Internet themselves; I’m aware most kids today are more tech-savvy than their folks. Teach parents about the benefits and the dangers of the online world. Teach them how to cope with the dangers, without necessarily having to curtail their children’s freedoms.
* Educate lawmakers, law enforcers and their staff. Teach them how to handle the Internet as an entity. It cannot be contained by space or geography. Unless data itself resides on servers within a country’s soil, it may be difficult to prosecute within one’s jurisdiction. Help them keep up to date with the trends and issues.
* Teach lawmakers and law enforcers how to handle the Internet as a medium. Can ISPs be held liable for serving access to pirated content? What about pornographic content? Can social media apps be held liable for questionable content that its users upload? Can blogs be liable for comments made by readers? It’s just like blaming the telephone company when you receive undesirable messages like death threats.
* Teach respect. Earn respect.
* Actively promote productive use of the Internet as a medium.
I would think the best way to keep people from engaging in illicit activities (crime, immorality, etc.) is to effect changes from within. Society’s ills cannot be solved by imposing expectations without first ensuring that the people’s attitudes are in tune with what society thinks is right. This would be unrealistic.
I think there are two ways by which you can make people follow you. One is if they fear you, and another is if they love you. Imposing a reign of fear will sure curb or minimize whatever undesirable acts, but this will only foster dissent (and deep down inside, people will want to disobey). Focus on the positive, and people will do what you think is right because they also think it is right.
If you try to impose filters on your home computer or network, so that your teenaged sons cannot access porn, they will only find workarounds and get access to these through other means. Perhaps they can tunnel through proxies. Perhaps they can turn off the filters themselves. Perhaps they can still gain access at a friend’s place, or a public terminal. Or maybe they can get hard copies of lewd magazines pretending to be men’s lifestyle mags). But if you help them learn about the sacredness of sex and the beauty of the human body (of course, in an interesting and non-boring way), I don’t think they will resort to pornography.
Same goes with your daughters. Teach them to be confident with themselves and to be smart, and they will be less likely taken advantage of (by the teenaged boys whose parents impose filters and restrictions ).
Why they need people like us
And so folks, here’s the reason why our country–and those in power–need people like us. We are well-versed with new media like social media, blogging, podcasting, Web 2.(insert number here). And we are well aware of the potentials of the Internet as a medium, both for good and for bad. It is our responsibility to use this medium for good, and to guide our fellow citizens in using this medium in a productive manner.
So whichever side of the issue you stand on, I think you would agree with me on this.
J. Angelo Racoma is a technology and automotive journalist and blogger. See more of his work at e27.sg, Android Authority and Tech Wire Asia. Follow him via Twitter at @jangelo.
The only freedom that is of enduring importance is the freedom of intelligence, that is to say, freedom of observation and of judgment, exercised in behalf of purposes that are intrinsically worth while. The commonest mistake made about freedom is, I think, to identify it with freedom of movement, or, with the external or physical side of activity. – John Dewey