Malaysia reviews controversial Internet law following online protest

Critics allege the law could be used to prosecute people who didn't actually make defamatory comments

Malaysia will review a controversial Internet law following a day-long blackout of prominent websites over concern it could be used to silence government critics.

Prime Minister Najib Razak wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night that he has asked his cabinet to discuss section 114A of the Evidence Act 1950. "Whatever we do, we must put people first," he wrote.

An amendment to the act that took effect July 31 makes service providers such as ISPs and publishers liable for defamatory content. Users accused of violating the act must prove to the government they were not responsible for the comments, a shift in the burden of proof, said James Chin, professor of political science at Monash University in Kuala Lumpur.

The amendment is believed to be aimed at opposition media and social networking sites ahead of a general election that is expected to be called soon. Malaysia's government, similar to Singapore's, tightly controls print and broadcast outlets, which had resulted in opposition websites outnumbering government ones three to one, Chin said.

"The opposition has no choice but to move to cyberspace to get their message out," Chin said.

On Tuesday, a number of websites participated in a "blackout," displaying information about the alleged harms of the law instead of their normal content. The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia said on Twitter that more than 70 websites participated, including news sites Malaysiakini and Digital News Asia.

CIJ has been a prominent opponent of the amendment, pointing out that hackers could impersonate others to post material intended to draw the attention of law enforcement. The group contends there are already four other laws that can be used to prosecute those accused of fraud, defamation or sedition.

Chin said the heavy-handed amendment could easily be rescinded by Parliament. The Dewan Rakyat, or the House of Representatives, is scheduled to resume session on Sept. 24, with the Senate, called the Dewan Negara, to resume on Dec. 3. Alternatively, the cabinet could issue an order to Malaysia's attorney general to not enforce the amendment, Chin said.

Malaysia's efforts to control the Internet are not unlike efforts in other countries, where governments don't "know how to handle the free flow of information," Chin said.

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?