Malaysian Government Pushes 'Fake News' Bill Aimed At Curb-Stomping Reporting About Its Corruption

from the STFU-citizens dept

Back in 2016, the Malaysian government pushed for broad censorship of an already tightly-controlled internet. The basis for this push was the government's inability to stop Malaysian media from reporting on government corruption. This reporting continued on platforms (and with news agencies) the government didn't directly control. To shut this down, the government decided to strip immunity from media platforms, making them directly responsible for user content. This allowed the government to control the narrative by going after service providers, rather than those publishing inconvenient facts.

The Malaysian government still hasn't been able to completely shut down critical reporting. Two years later, it's trying again, this time using an excuse provided by the newest US president: fake news.

Under the Anti-Fake News 2018 bill, anyone who publishes so-called fake news could face fines of up to 500,000 ringgit ($128,140), up to 10 years in jail, or both.

“The proposed Act seeks to safeguard the public against the proliferation of fake news whilst ensuring the right to freedom of speech and expression under the Federal Constitution is respected,” the government said in the bill.

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.

The law, which covers digital publications and social media, would apply to offenders outside Malaysia, including foreigners, if Malaysia or a Malaysian citizen were affected.

The last part attempts to make this enforceable anywhere in the world, putting foreign service providers at risk of accruing fines for refusing to take down anything the government declares "fake news." The proposed bill has already been criticized by Amnesty International as being nothing more than a "blatant attempt to shield the government from peaceful criticism." The first part -- the contradictory claim that targeting news the government doesn't like somehow equates to a free speech protection -- is just knuckle-dragging dissembling from a government that knows the public doesn't believe its claptrap.

Even if the government's intentions are pure (which they certainly aren't), the term "fake news" is almost impossible to define. Outlandishly false "reporting" is rarely targeted. What's most commonly referred to as "fake news" is any reporting the party in power doesn't like. The same would be the case here, as one Malaysian government official helpfully explained:

A deputy minister was quoted in Malaysian media last week as saying that any news on 1MDB that had not been verified by the government was “fake”.

The bill is nothing more than a threat to dangle over the Malaysian public to deter further discussion of government corruption. The government already directly controls the mainstream media, so the addition of an "affecting Malaysian people" clause is there to give it the legal permission to demand removal of content worldwide. Service providers located in other countries should follow blogging platform Medium's example: when faced with demands to delete reporting on the magical appearance of $700 million in the Malaysian prime minister's bank account, the platform demanded proof of the government's claims that the report was false. When this failed to materialize, Medium left the content up and reiterated its support for investigative journalism.

This will likely become law in the near future. The party in power holds a significant majority in the Parliament. The country's corrupt government will give itself the tools it needs to punish citizens for attempting to hold it accountable. And the term "fake news" will continue to be abused by authoritarian governments to stifle dissent.


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2018 @ 11:38am

    FAKE NEWS is that "fake news" is "an excuse provided by the

    newest US president".

    FAKE NEWS is readily found. It's not imagined, but deliberate propaganda made by NYTimes ("Trump-Russia collusion verified by 17 intelligence agencies", for which still ZERO evidence) and Washington Post.

    To circularly use the target of so much fake news to attack its target... that lying innuendo has actually lowered the standard here, and that's doing some serious excavating.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2018 @ 11:40am

      Re: FAKE NEWS is that "fake news" is "an excuse provided by the

      And that lying is unnecessary and distractive, minion.

      Just stick to title topic without adding your nasty little opinion of Trump.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2018 @ 12:43pm

      Re: FAKE NEWS is that "fake news" is "an excuse provided by the

      You look confused.
      Can I help you out? ... which way did you come in?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2018 @ 5:17am

        Re: Re: FAKE NEWS is that "fake news" is "an excuse provided by the

        oh? Does this establishment not serve jew...oops, I mean Trump supporters?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AmnastyIntervention, 30 Mar 2018 @ 11:39am

    Malaysian Government found circle-jerking, more at 11...

    Turns out all of this viciousness was due to members of the Malaysian government needing a little more bro-action.
    Things should revert to normal in...
    5
    4
    3
    2....<end of line>

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2018 @ 12:21pm

    and hands up those who think this is only happening in Malaysia?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2018 @ 1:37pm

    "fake news" refers to articles on 100% fake news websites set up by political operatives (like pr firms and governments) for propaganda and information warfare purposes. It's not really a gray area. Dishonest and biased journalism is a different thing.

    But especially corrupt politicians, the exact ones most likely to use real fake news as weapons against their opponents, have seized the term and tried to make it mean all news that is critical of them.

    The US' conman-in-chief has lead the charge with this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2018 @ 7:56pm

      Re:

      "fake news" refers to articles on 100% fake news websites set up by political operatives (like pr firms and governments) for propaganda and information warfare purposes.

      Oh, you mean like Fox News.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2018 @ 1:58am

        Re: Re:

        No. Fox News, and basically everything else owned by News Corp, is just low quality, untrustworthy, propagandistic shit.

        Oligarch controlled media is a different, older problem.

        Fake news is a specific, recent phenomenon.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2018 @ 5:14am

        Re: Re:

        As opposed to the clearly professional and unbiased progressive corporate media right?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Mar 2018 @ 6:42pm

    Is Malaysia turning into Oceana? When does the Ministry of Truth get announced?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 1 Apr 2018 @ 3:47pm

      Re:

      It already exists. It must. It's eternal, without beginning or end. After all, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2018 @ 7:23pm

      Re:

      It already exists. It's known as Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). Unless you're referring to the Muslims, in which case it's JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development Malaysia), which enforeces Islamic laws.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Smith, 31 Mar 2018 @ 6:58pm

    Abuse of power is not specific to anyone, anywhere, or anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 1 Apr 2018 @ 9:57am

    Isn't Malaysia a country that still supports slavery?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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