Malaysian Government Holding Service Providers Liable For The Actions Of Their Users

from the what-could-go-wrong dept

The idea of holding service providers responsible for the actions of their users is pretty absurd. Mostly because a website owner or ISP has very little control over what their users do, and to hold the providers responsible for potentially harmful or illegal actions of users would be akin to holding a hammer manufacturer or hardware store responsible when someone kills someone else with a hammer.

Of course this hasn't stopped people from attempting to drag service providers into legal complaints. For instance, we have the occasions when Twitter is sued for the actions of its users because it is mistakenly thought to be the publisher of the tweets. Or when the entertainment industry wants to hold Google responsible for Android apps that may allow for file sharing. There are many many more stories like these. Luckily, courts and most law makers understand that service providers cannot or should not be held liable for the actions of their users. Most, anyway.

Jeffrey Nonken Has alerted us to a recent law passed in Malaysia that would hold everyone from the website to the ISP to the coffee house with open wifi to the owner of a borrowed computer responsible for the online postings of a single person.

Section 114A of the bill seeks “to provide for the presumption of fact in publication in order to facilitate the identification and proving of the identity of an anonymous person involved in publication through the internet.” In other words, the section makes it easier for law enforcement authorities to trace the person who has uploaded or published material posted online.

According to the amended law, however, the originators of the content are those who own, administer, and/or edit websites, blogs, and online forums. Also included in the amendment are persons who offer webhosting services or internet access. And lastly, the owner of the computer or mobile device used to publish content online is also covered under section 114A.

This language had the internet-using public in Malaysia in an uproar, and they protested this law in much the same fashion as the protests over SOPA and ACTA. When these protests were finally heard, the Prime minister had the law reviewed, but to no avail.

When the petition was ignored by the government, netizens and media groups organized an online blackout on August 14, which succeeded in mobilizing thousands of internet users. The global attention which the action generated was likely what convinced the Prime Minister to agree to have the cabinet review the controversial amendments. Although this announcement was initially welcomed by opponents of the amendments, the Cabinet ultimately upheld the amended law.

As we know, these kinds of laws have a strong potential for abuse — one of the primary reasons US citizens opposed SOPA and CISPA. Giving a government the ability to prosecute a whole string of people only tenuously connected to a potential crime is a recipe for disaster. It will open up the ability for the government to stifle free speech even if it doesn't have to lift a finger. What will happen is that sites will now over-filter comments to avoid liability. Businesses that offered free wifi will potentially cut the service in an effort to avoid prosecution. This law will cause damage to the ability of Malaysian citizens to communicate freely over the internet.

This move to apply such harsh secondary liability is nothing surprising from a nation that supports internet filters which it promises will not be used to punish political dissent. Or the country whose courts, as part of a sentence for defamation, ordered a man to post his apology 100 times on Twitter. With the record that Malaysia has on internet freedom, it is no surprise that the outcome was what it was. However, we hope that the citizens of Malaysia continue their protests, and that those who support and passed this law will repeal it. 

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Comments on “Malaysian Government Holding Service Providers Liable For The Actions Of Their Users”

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Anonymous Coward says:

so exactly how did the US government threaten and with what to make Malaysia decide to do such a stupid thing? how long before one of their government officials does something, is found out, prosecuted and they then realise what twats they have made of themselves or allowed themselves to be made? are they going to prosecute all car owners because one happened to run over and injure/kill a pedestrian? ridiculous!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This has nothing to do with the US government and everything to do with maintaining the ruling party’s grasp on power.

What may not be obvious to a layman is that Malaysia’s mass media (television, newspapers, radio) are government controlled. The only outlet for opposition parties; indeed, opposing views is the internet. By upholding this law, they are basically trying to stifle opposition views.

When you factor in the fact that national elections are due very soon, and that the government has lost a lot of the popular vote… well… you can see the reasoning behind the law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Malaysia is poor, disease infested, uneducated technically by western standards, and a muslin country.

The rulers will jump, shit, fart and run in circles exactly when, where, and how the mullahs so decree and if they do not they will have quickly have ample time for a long discussion with Alla about indiscretions.

If that means then population lives in the 14th century so be that.

Anonymous Coward says:

seems like another, much longer internet blackout is needed. if that doesn’t work, hold another one and so on until things are changed. the biggest problem when things like this happen, no one can point to ‘democratic’ (and i use the term loosely now) countries like the USA, UK etc, because democracy has been removed in all forms other than name only and replaced by governments that have introduced or are trying to introduce laws that are equally as bad. the slope is getting more slippery every day. wont be long before the world is one big fascist dictatorship!

Bergman (profile) says:

Did the government officials who passed this law give themselves immunity? If not, perhaps some anonymous individuals ought to make a few highly illegal posts on official government servers?

That way, since the owner of the computer is wholly responsible for the illegal posting under the law, they can arrest, convict and jail their entire government from the head of state down through the entire bureaucracy.

dansing1 (profile) says:

Holding Service Providers Accountable

I totally sympathize with the idea of not holding service providers responsible for what people place online. Stretching that idea to include every other kind of physical establishment like hardware stores, etc. is foolish. Would I want to hold a hardware store responsible for who it sells a hammer to if that person commits a crime with the hammer? Of course I do. But I do to the extent that the hardware store must provide the police with access to its’ receipts for sales. Further responsibility isn’t needed for the hardware store. If the police locate the hammer, there are fingerprints and, with modern technology, for all I know, even sweat could help them. How about gun stores? Should they be held responsible, when they’re in states that allow everyone and anyone to carry a weapon? And what about those states that do have rules about the sale of weapons? Is a federal law required? As you can see, different circumstances call for different solutions. Let’s not go off half-cocked — I was talking about weapons, right?

lolzzzzz says:

hammer makers , now liable for uses of hammers

ya know rulings like this ought to have someone go beat a pet with a hammer that a govt person owns and say hey if the hammer makers made it hard for me to use one i’d not be hammering your pets….


the solution of course in ther eminds is to embed cameras up your ass to see if your eating counterfet food, in your eyes to make sure those nude pics of the royal kate are not fakes, and in your ears they put microphones to make sure when you speak you dont hum , sing or play any music you aint paid mini me’s billion dolla’s.

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