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Rappler CEO Maria Ressa Arrested for Cyber Libel (rappler.com)
78 points by uptown 38 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 58 comments

"The Department of Justice (DOJ) recommended the filing in court of cyber libel charges against Ressa and former Rappler researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr over a story published in May 2012 – or 4 months before the law that they allegedly violated was enacted."

I didn't know ex-post facto laws and retroactive prosecutions were legal in the Philippines.

There are a lot of other things that happen in the Philippines that might surprise you. Once you understand the general government climate, you would never be surprised by anything else. For example, airport officials have been caught in the past placing bullets in peoples suitcases so that they cannot pass security, and requesting a very large fee to ignore the issue. These are authority figures out to get money from little people.

I like to call this "the official's tax" and it comes with any significant money transfer in the Philippines. Everyone needs their cut or you don't get what you want. People come up with creative ways of applying this tax

Out of necessity or nah?

Why not? I haven't seen anyone portraying the country as a state that respects the rule of law lately.

This 100%. I originally thought this was the US DOJ. When I saw it was PH, I said forget it. Duerte runs a junta. PH history is full of judicial malpractice.

I’m from PH and we don’t feel we were run by a Junta or dictator as what you westeners like. We can criticize him online, publicly and go on with our lives. Duterte has several critics on newspaper, radio, online etc. Ressa broke the law and does not mean she’s excempted from it.

It's much easier to be an autocrat if people support you and don't realize what you are doing.

Happened to us in Peru with Fujimori [1]. Elected a guy that promised to be tough on crime and actually get things done. He did lots of things (tackled terrorism, hyperinflation, etc.), but bit by bit he started gaining more power. Closed congress, installed judges to the supreme court, changed constitution (he actually called for a referendum, and we all voted for it!)

A lot of people criticized him, and he was not jailing them but letting them be. Only if you were a major figure (opposition, some investigative newspapers), did he really go against you.

At the end, he started torturing people, embezzled a few billion dollars, committed massive election fraud, and was somewhat miraculously kicked and jailed after 11 years.

I don't want to draw the parallel too far, but believe me, the difference between autocracy and democracy is not black and white, and the way you play the game, is you try to do the "boil frogs in water" trick, but with people instead of frogs.

(Also, I thought that Ressa broke a law written AFTER she broke it? Which is in most places of the world completely unconstitutional..)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Fujimori

It could be a continuous crime, online publication crime are continuous in French law.

Does that mean that failure to take down an article is criminal if posting that article would now be criminal?

No idea, but the period of prescription starts when a libelous/harassing item is taken down.

I learned this because of a recent scandal where numerous, well connected, French journalists were operating coordinated 4chan-like online raids and IRL harassment on colleagues they didn't like.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligue_du_LOL — Literally the "League of LOL"

I guess so, and the fine would be proportional to how long it has been illegal.

It is a continuous crime. Ressa and her company were requested to take down the libelous article but they didn't heed it.

The headline leaves out important context that would settle some of the incidental questions commentators have fixated on in this thread and the article frankly buries the lede (perhaps by necessity):

Rappler has been subject to harassment and intimidation by the Duterte administration. President Rodrigo Duterte himself had made repeated false allegations against Rappler, including being supposedly funded by the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

Is cyber libel really the official charge? Why would you have to specify cyber? I makes as much sence as being charged with acoustic or offset libel to me.

There's also fraud, but also wire fraud, mail fraud.

We've got hate crime laws even though we already have murder, assault and harrasment laws. Might just be another way of tacking on extra punishment due to the nature of the crime.

That's not really what hate crime laws are, though. They're all about the motivation. Reforming a person who threatens to kill because they're angry about a personal dispute is very different from reforming a person who threatens to kill because they don't like the color of someone else's skin.

The difference between libel and "cyber libel" is just the medium. Arguably it'd be more like the difference between how the 1st and 4th amendments should be applied in your home vs. on Facebook. But like the GP, I'm not aware of specific cyber libel laws or charges.

Hate crime laws exist because hate crimes have a worse effect on society. Someone being killed because they were (say) black makes other black people afraid of being killed for the same reason. Hate spreads and can motivate other aggressors.

Non-hate crimes don't have this effect. They don't make a group feel afraid, singled out, and specifically targetted.

When a man beats his wife regularly, is that a hate crime against women? Why or why not?

A better comparison would be homicide vs vehicular homicide: it's got a different name when done with a different medium

It depends on the country, but generally means that the state has passed a cybercrime law and laid out a different definition for libel conducted online. Most likely a definition that is easier to prosecute than older traditional libel laws, for better or worse.

Probably due to the scalability. Kind of like the WhatsApp abuse in India or Fake NewsTM in the US it brings a greater danger to the reputation of the victim. Of course, Maria Ressa is obviously innocent, but journalists might want to think twice about asking the government or private sector to snuff out 'fake' news.

Tangentally related. Joe Rogan had Rafinha Bastos on his podcast this week. He is a comedian from Brazil. Apparently, he has come to the US because he was getting sued for making fun of people in Brazil. Similar things seem to happen in Canada for off color remarks "offending" people. I would hope that people of every political stripe in the US think about that. Being able to speak freely is something that isn't to be taken for granted.

You can be sued for libel here in the US as well. When we say Freedom of Speech and expression etc, we kind of mean "within reason". We just think of a whole lot more things as being "within reason" than do people elsewhere.

But yeah, I think you'd be in for a rude awakening in the US if you made the mistake of going into court thinking that the judge is going to agree that libel is "within reason".

I assume the Canadian case you are referring to is Mike Ward. For those interested, here is a bit more about that case.


Just for clarification, assuming you're referring to the Mike Ward case, these charges stemmed from the Human Rights Tribunal of Quebec, not the Canadian Federal Government. This type of thing (to my knowledge) is fairly unique to Quebec at this point in time, and is not a common occurrence in Canada. Appalling nonetheless.

It happens in California too.

(A customer tried to scam her Airbnb host, and the host made a remark about insinuating that scamming was an Asian personality trait. $5K fine and mandatory "re-education")


> Being able to speak freely is something that isn't to be taken for granted.

Where does the case of Michelle Carter fall into this.

You can be sued by private persons for making fun of people in the US

It is a pretty lucrative GOTCHA!

Edit: and win

Here is a guide on the US tort framework for libel and slander


You can also be sued by the state under criminal statutes for defamation and this is constitutionally protected under several circumstances that are broad


So people have just made up a social contract about the US that doesnt always exist. This is partially because the definitions vary from state to state, and judge to judge within a single state. But you have to also realize that other countries are often structured the same way.

Tl:dr; many people’s experience in the US is one where there is both civil and criminal liability for making fun of someone and it has always been like this. Just like “those other worse” countries, no matter what your childhood indoctrination convinced you of.

Here’s a link where someone much more versed than me explains it. It echoes the other responses to your post.


you can sue anyone for anything you can convince a lawyer to take a case for. Doesn't mean you can win, and I certainly haven't seen cases where the butt of a joke sued and won. I would definitely be interested in reading about the case that proves me wrong.

This is a thread about libel and slander really. Not just being the butt of a joke. I included some links, one on civil tort and one on criminal defamation. The criminal defamation article has links from a variety of states and time periods.

edit: yes, just like in Brazil or Canada, there are some circumstances in some states with some judges where both comedy and offending someone can result in civil and criminal penalties, when those circumstances fit the criteria for libel, slander or defamation. the circumstances may be narrower in those United States than those particular countries due to the first amendment, or perhaps they may be broader because I don't know the particulars of those specific countries.

You replied to a comment specifically about being the butt if a joke (making fun of Brazilians)

Yes, I did. If that joke satisfies the criteria of libel, slander or defamation then you can face civil or criminal penalties in the United States as well.

You "can", however case law in the US is very deeply anti-plaintiff, due to centuries of supreme court justices voting in favor of free speech. A joke would not satisfy the criteria for libel.

You can be sued by anyone for ANYTHING. That doesn't mean you can win. The statutes you site are extremely hard to win at because of first amendment protections; even at the unlikely outcome that you win a court case (you'll probably lose at summary judgement) you're most likely going to be overturned on appeal, even in the most conservative circuits.

You can sue for just about anything. Do you have an example of a case where the plaintiff won?

Eminem won a case where he portrayed a childhood bully negatively in one of his songs: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/judge-drops-em...

I guess Eminem has more resources than the average person, but it’s something I remembered.

Eminem was the defendant

This is the opposite of the plaintiff winning

No and I am not invested enough to prove this reality for you. I added some links that could help. Just realize that if this reality is true, then this knowledge is advantageous in maintaining your status and appropriating resources, and the people that already have those things already have this knowledge and take advantage of an unsuspecting population that was raised on a fictional social contract that doesn't really exist.

> No and I am not invested enough to prove this reality for you.

Seems like a cop-out. Extraordinary claims and all that.

> Seems like a cop-out. Extraordinary claims and all that.

Deducing this has almost nothing to do with the specific topic of how your speech can be sanctioned, but only how the court systems function.

This isn't one of those situations where it makes sense for me to dig and post tort case law just so people can dissect whichever one I post to either be surprised at how reality works, or find a way to carve an exemption about why it doesn't apply at all. Backing up claims this way is not an effective way to synchronize our realities, and it is sillier to conclude that it is an unfathomable reality simply because I don’t feel the need to don’t carry the responsibility of changing your (or other's) mind in this way.

Your response seems like denial to me, as if you need your social contract to be true.

So, here is a more effective way of deducing what you need to know:

A judge will take libel and slander cases from private persons. Which means the judge didn’t dismiss the claim, and civil cases can result in summary judgements, at the discretion of the judge.

A judge will take criminal defamation cases from the state.

You can face civil or criminal liability in the United States for offending people, making fun of them in ways that fit the criteria of libel, slander or defamation. This means you have to defend yourself if in this circumstance or face disruptions to your way of life and freedom, in the United States.

This isn't an extraordinary claim and I would put the ball in your court to disprove it, because this is just an explanation of how the court system works and has almost nothing to do with whether it damaged your ideals about how speech can create liability.

>This isn't an extraordinary claim and I would put the ball in your court to disprove it...

That's not how this works. You make a claim, you back it up. If you don't, you're just adding noise.

Fortunately for you, I did post a link which contains criminal defamation cases in the United States, which is the same level of speech liability that these examples from other countries experience.

I won't be searching for civil tort cases for you, and I did provide you a framework for how to determine this reality already. So yes, that is how this works, by understanding how the civil and criminal court system function.

So no, you're not aware of anyone actually being successful in such a suit. Good to know.

I am aware and dont keep case law on file for every topic that runs counter to the collective conscious, but logically does your decision path make sense?

If I decide not to prove something in the most arbitrary way anyone asks then the different world view does not exist?

Are you sure?

I could see how you might be used to that in other topics, but in case law it wouldnt

I am using my Twitter as a test bed for this. My life was ruined by a false assault allegation, so I am using my real name on Twitter and saying things that seem horrible that I am willing to defend over coffee—nobody has taken me up, or even called my phone number that I leave in threads to discuss.

I’ve always tested authority, this one is worth more than my life. I’m currently at a job readiness program in SF, and was flippantly expelled from the BA Clojure group last week based soley on Tweets.

Free speech or die. In my first college course, mass communication, we learned that people decide how to feel. I changed my stance to agree with that, in that course. Now we see the exact opposite!

So what is your twitter?

Edit: I found it. So far it's just a bunch of rambling about how you lost your job for saying something that people percieved as bigoted. What did you say?

It doesn't seem like what you're doing is working, if you're homeless and can't find programming work at $15/hr.

I wish you the best, but maybe it's time to consider taking a different route.

Who's authority have you been attempting to test? Good taste? Judicial precedent?

Here's an excellent interview with Maria Ressa (by Kara Swisher) from late last year that gives some context.



Fact check this arrest of Maria Ressa due to cyberlibel? Consider these:

1. The case stemmed from an article posted by Rappler IN MAY 2012 against a businessman, Wilfredo Keng, whereby the said article alleged that CJ Corona used an SUV owned by Keng during his impeachment trial.

2. Keng sued not because of the SUV angle but because the Rappler story maliciously imputed that he is engaged in human trafficking and illegal drugs.

3. Keng sued for cyberlibel in OCTOBER 2017, or 5 years after the original story was posted. There was no cyberlibel law yet when the story came out IN MAY 2012. The Cyber Libel Law came in effect SEPTEMBER 2012.

4. However, instead of heeding the request of Keng to take down the story, Rappler posted an update on the same story in FEBRUARY 2014, when the cyberlibel law was already in effect.

5. Last January 10, the DOJ found probable cause against Maria Ressa, reporter/researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. and Rappler for cyberlibel.

6. The DOJ rejected the motion of Ressa’s camp to dismiss the charge based on their argument that the filing was beyond the one year prescription period. The DOJ said that under the cyberlibel law, there is no 1 Year prescription period indicated.

7. Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa issued a warrant of arrest dated February 12, 2019, TUESDAY.

8. Ressa had the whole day of Wednesday, Feb13, 2019 to post bail. But she did not do so, and instead, invited media people to her office prior to the arrival of the NBI personnel who were to serve the WOA.

These are the facts.

Not so fast.

#8 - The order was DATED February 12 but she was served the warrant at 5pm, obviously when courts are closed.

#3 and #4 - Libel expires one year after publication. The NBI was quick to acknowledge this one-year prescriptive period but later flip-flopped.

#8 - she had the whole day (feb 13) to post bail. well, she was able to post bail within a week anyway.

#3 and #4 - This one is cyber libel. It covers 12 years after publication.

The Philipines has one of the most screwed up legal systems and a horrible record against journalists. It really makes you appreciate US law, first amendment law, the US bail system/right to a speedy trail, and many other aspects of our judicial system when you see their system in practice.

And no bail.... for libel. That seems odd.

I love the mood voting bar on the right hand side of the page. It's like a laugh track for the news, in case you're not sure how to feel.


>> 4 months before the law that they allegedly violated was enacted

1. The Internet is a medium in which stuff is sort of continually published as it's requested. If you're made aware that a claim is false and don't actually have anything to back it up, I think it's naturally on you to amend that or remove it. I don't necessarily see this as a violation of the rule of law if that happened and they took no action.

2. They claimed that someone had "alleged links based on reports". Well if they can produce third-party reports I think they're technically in the right. But there's a problem that people read too much into it when writers hedge what they're saying. Reminds of Himalayan Salt: it's known for it's color and mineral content (impurities), but people often say that OTHER people call it the purest salt. Maybe it is, but that doesn't make sense to me. So I once called a nutritionist on it when they made the claim and they said, "oh I don't know, but other people say that". There's so little burden of proof because of how they say it. Should be a red flag when we read it.

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