Should the Web Be Netted? The Case Againsts Facebook Libels

Who can forget the searing triumph of Dan’l Webster as he waged the formidable battle over the soul of Jabez Stone in Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Vincent Benet’s timeless court room masterpiece? A poor farmer cursed with bad luck sold his soul to the Devil, then his fate brought forth an avalanche of success and he almost reached the pinnacle of political power. He was, however, as much as he tried to evade it, damned by the pact.

The salvation of his immortal soul thus fell on the greatest orator of the land. Webster faced the most fearsome jury only nightmares can conceive – the gathering of the darkest characters in the history of the land of the free.

Freedom, argued Webster, is man’s birthright. It is what gives life its deepest significance. The ideal of freedom summons the noble side of humanity. His summation reminds us all of who we are and what we are here for.

Evil backed down, defeated by eternal truths. What Webster thundered was true, we all know them to be true, because our heart of hearts know them to be true. Truth sets us free, all of us, “even the damned.”

It is thus supreme irony that a lawyer was sued for libel for practicing his inalienable right to freedom of speech in, of all places, the Internet.

Lawyer Argee Guevarra’s opinions on his Facebook account is privileged information. If he called for a boycott of Belo Medical clinics because of the botched operation on a patient named Josie Norcio, it is his right and there’s no place for libel because the comments were valid – solidly backed by the hideous results on Norcio.

Sadly, Maria Ronatay, fourth assistant provincial prosecutor of Tanay, insists there is, and seems convinced that she has the power to bring it on. The comments were posted, by the way, a long time ago in July 2009.

But where do you draw the line between what is printable and what should not be? If there is probable cause for writing it, then there is no probable cause for libeling it. Negative remarks without any basis should be shunned, but what rings true should never be.

Freedom is power. The Internet is the symbol of power, and the power of symbols is like a river that flows through us all, like striking a chord in the strings of that which makes us human. The World Wide Web is, and should always be, above and beyond petty legalities and misguided zeal.