Online libel emboldens firms in silencing employees – labor NGO

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A labor research group warned on Wednesday that the online libel in the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 will be abused by companies to silence workers who are pushing for union rights and for better working conditions.

Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, Inc. (EILER) said cyber libel creates a “chilling effect” among workers, most of whom are non-unionized and are highly vulnerable to company harassment and retrenchment.

“With the latest Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of online libel, we can expect corporations to use libel lawsuits to stifle workers’ voices and block democratic initiatives of workers online such as social media campaigns,” EILER head researcher Carlos Maningat said.

“Online libel further narrows the democratic space for Filipino workers who are increasingly turning to social networking sites to voice labor concerns in the absence of unions,” Maningat added.

EILER said a growing number of workers are tapping Facebook and Twitter to launch online campaigns, circulate petitions against companies, publicize labor rights violations, and network with fellow workers and labor advocates abroad.

“A growing number of companies are tracking their employees’ activities online for a long time due to social media’s potential, especially in the business process outsourcing industry. Now, these companies have an easy excuse to reprimand and threaten employees who are seen as critical of company polices,” Maningat.

EILER noted that the business process industry (BPO) lobbied hard for the passage of the cybercrime law, fearing that the internet could be used by BPO employees as a step towards organizing themselves.

The group said the entire BPO industry, which employs more than 700,000 workers, remains union-less up to now.

“Workers will rise in protest again against cybercrime law, a law that patently favors the rich and powerful in the country at the expense of the democratic rights of the majority,” Maningat ended.

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