Saturday, June 15, 2013

New internet laws needed to check cyberspace abuse in Malaysia

Posted by Smookiekins On 6/15/2013 10:27:00 PM

Many would agree that the government should come up with new laws or revise the existing cyber laws to reduce instances of misuse of the Internet and social media sites.Some parties also suggest that the culture of local communities must be taken into account when formulating the laws, and that the Internet laws used in the West should be studied before being adopted.

Nevertheless, the sensitivities of various communities, their history, education levels, and readiness to accept such laws must also be given due consideration.

The Dean of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM)’s Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, Prof Dr Azizul Halim Yahya, stated that although people in the United States for example have the freedom of expression, whether it be in the real world or in cyberspace, they are still subject to various Acts, such as the Harassment Act and Invasion of Privacy Act, which are meant to protect them.

The communities there still have to be careful about what they say, because what they say can be either be laughed off as a joke or taken seriously, particularly if it involves national issues, the country’s president, and so on.

“For example, if something defamatory has been said about someone, the person who has been allegedly defamed can challenge or counter the accusation. If the accusation is proven to be false and the person who had made the statement is found guilty, he or she would have to face the punishment. However, such matters are seldom raised in Malaysia. Many Malaysians are confused about the issues of defamation or harassment,” he noted.

Prof Dr Azizul said the freedom of expression must be accompanied by a sense of responsibility, including being prepared to be taken to the court.

Recently, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said the government will be studying the Internet regulations of three countries – the United States, Britain and Australia – in its efforts to tackle the issue of social media abuse in the country.

In spite of the freedom given to the people to express their views on the federation and states, the use of Internet in the US comes under the jurisdiction of a set of laws.

In Australia, Internet content is monitored by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), which has the power to censor Internet content in the country.

The ACMA can also blacklist foreign websites, apart from censoring their content.

It has banned many sites, mostly containing child pornography, sexual violence and illegal activities, after Internet users report such sites to the government.

Meanwhile, in Britain, Internet censorship measures include blocking access to websites, enforcing the laws on publishing offences, or having materials classified as defamatory, copyright infringement, harassment and child pornography.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) was set up there to compile and maintain blacklisted URLs, mostly webpages containing child pornography.

Prof Dr Azizul said while Malaysia has adopted laws similar to Britain’s, such as the new 2013 Harassment Act, the latter dealt with such cases faster and more efficiently than Malaysia, because Britain had been practising the law for a long time.

In Malaysia, there are too many instances and cases of defamation, both within and outside the cyberspace, and it has become difficult to establish their source or cause.

The authorities, therefore, should take quick action against perpetrators, because if the trend is not nipped, the countrzy’s harmony will be compromised –and that could give rise to unrest.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Director of Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA)’s Department of Industrial Relations, Dr Norbaiduri Ruslan, said the people in the West are more responsible, better understand their rights, and give priority to freedom and privacy.

“We are yet to be well informed (in this area). When we realise our rights and other people’s rights, then we will know how to be mindful of our actions, both in the virtual and real world,” he stated.

“The awareness campaign on how to be civic-minded in the cyberspace and Internet must start at the primary school level. Currently, there is too much exposure around the world, but our exposure is still limited. We are not strong in the areas of spirituality and personal development, and we are weak psychologically,” Norbaiduri pointed out.

“If we hanker too much to be on a par with the advanced countries, we will lose our culture,” she warned.

Norbaiduri said Malaysians need to be aware of their rights while operating on the social media, and they should not take it for granted that they can say anything without being mindful of the country’s laws.

A legal practitioner, Khairul Azam Abd Aziz, said writers must be responsible for what they write – irrespective of the medium they use – and they should also be prepared to face the consequences.

“If the writing is constructive, there is no reason to worry, but if it is to disturb or jeopordise public peace, some form of regulation must address that issue,” he said.

Meanwhile, a blogger, who wanted to be identified only as Hazrey, said the government should review all existing Acts relating to the social media for the benefit of future generations.

“The abuse of social media is getting increasingly rampant now. When an adult resorts to doing something (on the Net) without any care or concern and merely to take revenge for something, it can become a trend. The younger generation is no exception, either,” he pointed out.

“At the children’s level, this can even give rise to the problem of cyber bullies,” Hazrey added.

Source: New Sabah Times


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