Politics

Enforcement better than amended or new laws for social media

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR – August 3, 2015: Several legal experts opined that the government should not be too quick to amend new laws to regulate the social media, as they have deemed that the existing laws were ‘more than enough’ to bring order in the local cyberspace.

It was reported today that Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Salleh Tun Said Keruak said there is a need to review the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA).

In his blog, Salleh wrote that the move was timely as social media had become a necessary tool of everyday life that impacted not only the flow of information, but also finance and commerce.

“What is of concern now is the popular, and sometimes necessary use of the Internet has also attracted various Internet crimes such as fraud, data theft, identity theft and fabrication of false news and fake documents,” he wrote.

Salleh explained that while upholding freedom of speech and the right to information, Malaysians must also be protected from libel, slander and character assassination.

However, legal experts who were contacted by The Mole today, were of the opinion that instead of amending or enacting laws for that purpose, the government should instead put in more efforts in enforcing the existing laws.

Professor Abdul Halim Sidek of the National Council of Professors argued that it was the lack of enforcement of those laws that had caused social media users to assume that they have an absolute freedom to “irresponsibly say, write or share anything they want in the social media.”

“There is no need to have new laws to regulate the social media because the needed laws are already stated in the Federal Constitution, Sedition Act and the Official Secrets Act and etc.

“But apparently those who were tasked to enforce such laws are not doing a good job enforcing it.

“If enforcements are not consistently done, it will send the wrong message to the public, especially social media users.

“They (social media users) will assume that they can carry on defaming people because no repercussions was acted upon them,” he told The Mole.

Lawyer Zaki Azmi, who shared similar sentiments on the adequacy of the existing laws needed to regulate order in the cyberspace said if the government continues to amend the laws “then Malaysia would be moving backwards.”

“Amending more laws to curtail the freedom in social media would only contradict the government’s efforts to become a transparent government.

“The government only needs to make full use of the existing laws…that’s all.

“Because, as it is, our laws are already effective in dealing with those thinking that they can say whatever they want just because they are saying it in the internet,” said Zaki.

He also said that social media users who have had legal actions taken onto them by the government cannot simply argue that their freedom of expression were being compromised.

“Yes, it is true that Article 10 of the Federal Constitution stated that all Malaysians are entitled to have freedom of expression…but the same article also states that such freedom is subjected to the law.

“You can say whatever it is that you want but you better be prepared if the things you’ve said turns out to be untrue or can amount to libel or slander because then you have to also be responsible for your actions,” said Zaki.

Another lawyer Lukman Sherif Alias had several reservations on the technical aspects of the government’s attempt to regulate social media.

He said that if the government wants every Facebook or Whatsapp users to register their account to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) “then how are they going to do that?”

“To be frank, I doubt that the government can actually ask every single Malaysian to register their social media account to the MCMC.

“In fact, does our IT (information and technology) infrastructure have the capacity to actually do that and can we even do a massive internet blockade like what China is currently doing?

“It’s easier to regulate news organization from spreading false news but when it comes down to social media, it’s gonna be quite difficult…does the government plans to disable Facebook’s share button?” he questioned.

He added that “so far I can’t recall of knowing any country that has regulated their local Whatsapp users. So unless the government has come out with a proper framework on such regulations, I can’t say whether I’m all for it or not.”

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Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at zaidiazmi91@gmail.com.