FAST FACTS: What is cyber sedition?
MANILA, Philippines – What exactly is cyber sedition?
We heard about it earlier this week when Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Rodolfo Salalima said during a Palace briefing on Tuesday, June 13, “May huhilihin na, [someone will be arrested soon], cyber sedition.” (READ: Suspect to be arrested for ‘cyber sedition’ related to Marawi crisis).
Salalima's office is currently investigating suspects who are aiding Maute terrorists using online propaganda.
Cyber sedition, a form of cybercrime, makes use of online means and activities to plot against the government. “You do sedition or you incite people via cyber or via internet. There is cyber-rebellion, there is cyber-sedition. But for rebellion, there must be a taking up of arms. So if it’s online, it could amount to cyber sedition,” Salalima said.
ISIS and cyber sedition
The crime of sedition is widely defined as the insurrection or resistance to government through forceful or illegal means.
In the Philippines, the crime of sedition is defined as acts committed by persons who try to prevent the execution of law or holding of elections; prevent the government or public officers from exercising their functions; inflict an act of hate or revenge upon public officers; commit any act of hate or revenge against private persons or any social class; and despoil any person or government of its property.
With the Philippines having around 44 million internet users and 47 million active Facebook accounts, the cyberworld becomes a key medium in both spreading and fighting terrorist ideology.
Groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and several other terrorist organizations are now known to use social media engagements to recruit members and spread their cause.
Reports have shown that ISIS currently controls 90,000 Twitter profiles apart from other social media accounts such as Facebook, YouTube, and Tumblr. While open source platforms such as these may increase the vulnerability of terrorists, they also increase the group’s reach and exposure.
Twitter functionalities such as hashtags are also heavily used by terrorists to archive, upload, and disseminate propaganda. Unlike personal or public accounts, Twitter does not suspend or block hashtags. (READ: Twitter-terror: How ISIS is using hashtags for propaganda).
ISIS members are also known for using online, end-to-end messaging applications such as Telegram and WhatsApp. These apps are not only widely used, but are also heavily encrypted, making their conversations more secure and protected. Terrorist groups allegedly recruit via public platforms, then turn to peer-to-peer social media accounts when discussing tactical information.
Online propaganda in Marawi
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recently asked Facebook Philippines to shut down at least 63 accounts of Maute militants and their supporters. According to the AFP, these accounts are being used to spread extremist ideas and misinformation, making the fight against terrorism more difficult.
AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla has assured the public that they are currently monitoring online propaganda being used in the Marawi siege. “We have touched base with social media companies to request their assistance to put down sites that are fomenting disinformation and discord as well as violence,” he added.
Padilla also urged netizens to refrain from sharing terrorist propaganda, including a video of Maute members burning and destroying religious icons in a St. Mary’s Cathedral at Marawi.
He said such videos may only lead to hatred and violence among religious groups. “This is not a religious war. This is a terror attack on the city of Marawi and we must be clear about it.”
The leader of a sedition faces the penalty of prision mayor in its minimum period (6 years to 8 years) and a fine not exceeding P10,000, while participants are given the penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period and a fine not exceeding P5,000.
Those who conspire to commit sedition face the penalty of prision correccional in its medium period (from 2 years, 4 months and 1 day to 4 years and 2 months) and a fine not exceeding P2,000.
Meanwhile, any person who incites acts of sedition through speeches and writing, among others, will also be penalized with a fine not exceeding P2,000 and the penalty of prision correcional in its maximum period (from 4 years, 2 months and 1 day to 6 years).
But with Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, penalties for crimes committed online will be higher.
Section 6 of the cybercrime law states that all crimes defined and penalized by the Revised Penal Code will be covered under RA 10175.
The penalty to be imposed under the cybercrime law, however, will be one degree higher than that provided in the Revised Penal Code. – Gari A. Acolola/Rappler.com
Gari Acolola is a Rappler intern