Malaysia to set new 'fake news' law

27 March, 2018, 17:14 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Malaysia: 'Deeply disturbing' fake news bill must be scrapped

Be that as it may, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, clarified that the proposed Bill can effectively manage the increasingly complex offences that have sparked from the rapid technological development - stressing that these are offences that are not now being addressed by the law.

The term "alternative fact" (pretty much "fake news") was popularized by the Trump administration's Kellyanne Conway, who used the phrase when faced with the paltry number of attendees at the president's inauguration after his press secretary gave the press an inflated figure.

Singapore and the Philippines, among other southeast Asian countries, have also proposed laws to clamp down on fake news.

It is clear that the bill, should it be passed, is sheer overkill and an exaggeration of the problem of "fake news".

Under the Anti-Fake News Act, those who unknowingly spread fake news are not considered guilty.

Q: Will this bill address the dissemination of fake news in its entirety?

YouTube's CEO Susan Wojcicki released a statement saying that in order to avoid spreading fake news, the company will now supplement videos with Wikipedia entries. "It also looks like they are rushing through the bill ... before the elections". This includes a sedition law, a press and publications act, and an official secrets act and a security act. While elements of the bill might change once the bill has been debated, here are some relevant information we pulled out from the current bill.

The Bill will not involve additional expenditure by the Government. "This Anti-Fake News Bill is plunging the country into an Orwellian nightmare", he added.

Q: Is the definition of "fake news" in this bill of a general or specific nature?

Germany's Enabling Act of 1933, which essentially sowed the seeds for National Socialism to flourish; America's Patriot Act provisions that allowed for overreaching government mass surveillance on the general public; and finally Malaysia's own Internal Securities Act, put in place to ensure cohesive race relations after the 1969 riots, but used by then-Prime Minister Mahathir in the late '80s to imprison political rivals.

The government defined fake news as "news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false" and included features, visuals and audio recordings. It has to be stressed that at this time, there are no laws directly related to fake news.

Q: In this context, who will determine whether a piece of news or information is incorrect or otherwise? That is, by the due process of law. The courts will have the power to rule on the disposal of any publication deemed to contain fake news. Article 10 (1)(a) guarantees freedom of speech. What is the government's view on this matter? "This is an unsubstantiated and politically-motivated claim..."

"There is no law drafted and approved by Parliament that is meant to restrict the freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the Federal Constitution", the FAQ read.

In addition to the punishment, the Court may also order for an apology, such as in open court or by publishing it in newspapers, for example.

The bill was proposed in parliament, before a national election which is set within weeks.

The stipulation could have a chilling effect on foreign news reporting, because it would also apply to news published outside the country by people of any nationality, if it affected Malaysian citizens. "It (fake news) affects individuals, businesses".

The Anti-Fake News Act is being tabled in parliament as we speak, and this could be huge for us how Malaysia has been interacting with the internet.



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