Malaysian 'Fake News' Law Claims Its First Victim

from the badmouthing-law-enforcement?-that's-a-jailin' dept

The Malaysian government got a jump on the rest of the world by being the first to actually enact a "fake news" law. The government had several hundred million good reasons to do so, most them residing in the prime minister's bank account. Lawmakers cited concern for the public's well-being, but critics noted the law was just an efficient way for the government to shut down reporting it doesn't like.

The nation's Ministry of Truth (a.k.a., the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission) cited free speech champion Donald Trump as the inspiration for this new censorship tool.

“Fake news has become a global phenomenon, but Malaysia is at the tip of the spear in trying to fight it with an anti-fake news law,” said Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek, a senior official with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission. “When the American president made ‘fake news’ into a buzzword, the world woke up.”

The law has already rung up its first arrest for "fake news." And it's someone who's not even a Malaysian citizen.

Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman seems like an improbable purveyor of “fake news.”

He doesn't run a troll farm or a website designed to spread propaganda. He's not on a mission to destroy a politician or artist. He's not even a journalist.

But this week, he was sentenced to a week in jail for a YouTube video he made, the first casualty of Malaysia's “fake news” law.

[...]

Sulaiman, a Danish citizen of Yemeni descent, said he'd been in Malaysia for less than two weeks when he was arrested.

The video that resulted in a one-week jail sentence dealt with the shooting of a Hamas lecturer, supposedly by Israel's spy agency. Sulaiman claimed it took an hour for an ambulance to arrive after he reported the shooting. The police claimed it only took them eight minutes for a patrol car to arrive. Two days after the video was posted, Sulaiman was arrested and charged with publishing "fake news." His inability to pay a $2,500 fine has increased his sentence to one month.

There's a difference between a police car and an ambulance, which may make the video technically correct. But that really shouldn't matter. Even if his claims were false, there's no way the government should have reacted with anything more than a statement denying Sulaiman's claims. The new law allows the government to arrest and fine anyone who publishes anything the government disagrees with. Six months in jail and fines up to $128,000 are one hell of a chilling effect. All the government seemingly needs to do to make charges stick is deny allegations made by citizens -- or in this case, a nonresident visitor who claims he did not know the government had recently outlawed 'fake news."

Those concerned about the state of speech protections around the world will view this as severely troubling. Those who actually have the power and desire to further restrict criticism and unfavorable reporting will see nothing but upsides for enacting legislation targeting "fake news."


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  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 3 May 2018 @ 4:00am

    "Sulaiman claimed it took an hour for an ambulance to arrive after he reported the shooting. The police claimed it only took them eight minutes for a patrol car to arrive."

    So, he didn't say anything that contradicted their claim at all? Wow. It's one thing to be posting information that contradicts "official" versions of events, quite another to be faced with penalties for something that's only tangentially related to it.

    “When the American president made ‘fake news’ into a buzzword, the world woke up.”

    No, when it was indicated that the US and Brexit elections may well have been swung by outright disinformation, often spearheaded by foreign agents, the world woke up. The term meant something at the time.

    The orange muppet misapplying the word to everything he didn't like during his 3am Twitter rants is probably where you got involved, so you're probably not even aware of what it means. Which, I suppose, explains this case.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 May 2018 @ 4:06am

      Re:

      Hmmm... further reading shows that while the WP article linked above mentions an ambulance, the Reuters article they link back to does not. So, this could be a mistake on WP's part or they added information that confuses the story.

      Doesn't make this any less ridiculous or scary for the people of Malaysia, just a little (very little) less outlandish.

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

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 3 May 2018 @ 5:58am

      Re:

      "Fake News." Defined by those in power as "News that's inconvenient for those in power."

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 3 May 2018 @ 9:30am

      "Did you punch that person?" "Of course I didn't kick them!"

      So, he didn't say anything that contradicted their claim at all? Wow. It's one thing to be posting information that contradicts "official" versions of events, quite another to be faced with penalties for something that's only tangentially related to it.

      The ambulance/police car thing struck me as an attempt to dodge the accusation by shifting it. He said that the ambulance took an hour to show up. They responded by pointing out that a police car showed up in a matter of minutes.

      They didn't actual rebut to the accusation(which by it self basically confirms it), instead they ignored it and answered an accusation that he didn't make.

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

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 3 May 2018 @ 5:04am

    "The nation's Ministry of Truth"
    Really? Thats the name?
    Do they have a silly walk?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2018 @ 5:06am

    The first three words of this article were "The Malaysian government" and I was hoping so much that was the first victim the law claimed.

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

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 3 May 2018 @ 5:41am

      Re:

      "amid fears from human rights groups it could be used by the government against its opponents."

      An there it actually is.


      Has anyone here been fooled by fake news?
      If so what and where?

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 3 May 2018 @ 5:47am

        Re: Re: Fake News

        Here you go: Vengeful ex-girlfriend extracts all ex-boyfriend's teeth. See the Daily Mail for more fake news.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 3 May 2018 @ 6:16am

          Re: Re: Re: Fake News

          I forget the link, but I was on here a few years back arguing with somebody who claimed that the news about Muslim-owned "no go zones" in the UK was true and the country was about to be taken over because it was impossible to police them. One of the links he posted as "proof" was to the Daily Fail, and it was as you normally expect - lots of hyperbole and outright lies in the headline and lede, followed by a explanation of the actual truth at the bottom where the average Fail fan wouldn't read.

          Turns out, the real story was not that police feared to tread in Islamic claimed areas. The actual story was that a random Imam put up flyers "claiming" an area... which were promptly removed a few hours later by the local council. The story was literally "guy put up posters which were taken down", and presented as Shariah takeover by the gutter press. But, the idiot I was arguing with couldn't accept that the article had lied to him, even though the proof was in the very same article.

          I always find that rather memorable, and a reminder that some peoples' world-views are being shaped by outright lies that bear no resemblance to reality. I have no fear of most of the things these outlets try to peddle, but I have very real fears of their mindless fans.

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

          • icon
            Roger Strong (profile), 3 May 2018 @ 7:08am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Fake News

            Here in Canada a decade ago a small group of Muslims called for court-recognized Islamic arbitration panels based on sharia law, that their own people could use. They were shouted down - marches even held to protest them - by a much, MUCH larger group of Muslims who had had enough of that crap in the old world and wanted no part of it here.

            (The upshot: Someone pointed out that there were similar Jewish arbitration panels recognized by the Ontario government. Canadians went "Wait.... what?" and those were shut down.)

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2018 @ 7:09am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Fake News

            I liked the female reporter that did a piece while walking thru one of these supposed "no go zones".

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 3 May 2018 @ 6:09am

        Re: Re:

        "Has anyone here been fooled by fake news?
        If so what and where?"

        Donald Trump, for starters.

        https://www.snopes.com/news/2017/11/30/trump-britain-first-videos-context/

        https://www.thegu ardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/may/22/trumps-fox-news-deputy-national-sec urity-advisor-fooled-him-with-climate-fake-news

        Not exactly a high bar, but he has millions of idiots like him around the globe who believe whatever they're told. And they vote. There are many thousands more examples.

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

        • identicon
          I.T. Guy, 3 May 2018 @ 8:08am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I meant anyone normal. :)

          and not being hoodwinked by a staff member:
          Four years later, McFarland put the fake document in Trump’s hands, and he reportedly “quickly got lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy … Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it”.

          I wouldn't call that fake news. Thats being lied to from someone you trust. ( No Trump supporter here.)

          I mean the average Joe. I mean at least... a third of the populace.

          I mean it being so bad that laws need to be enacted. Not some fringe idiots that the MSM latches onto to make the appearance of a problem.

          "Not exactly a high bar, but he has millions of idiots like him around the globe who believe whatever they're told. And they vote. There are many thousands more examples."

          But not enough to the point of action is the point.

          "he has millions of idiots like him"
          Yeah and some are not. The Amish community supported him for some odd reason.

          "And they vote."
          Like that matters? Didn't Hills win the popular vote? (A whole other can of worms for this country.)

          I am looking for the "problem" with "fake news" Seems to me if it opposes the Current and most likely any future administration, it is fake news, but when it comes from them it's supposed to be taken at face value. Let's just call it what it is from either side... Propaganda.

          I'd still like to see something posted as confirmed fake news and where it comes from.

          Mind you I do not do social media except for YT. No tweets, no Books, no Tinders. Nothing. I chalk it off to one of the benefits of being paranoid. :)

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 3 May 2018 @ 8:26am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "I meant anyone normal. :)"

            People don't have to be normal to affect you by voting, etc. Huge amount of time and effort have been spent clearing up spam and the effects of such scams, etc., even though only a portion of the dumber 1% of the population would ever fall for them.

            "Thats being lied to from someone you trust."

            Assuming McFarland knew it was a fake himself...

            Either way, fake news is really the same thing as that, only the "person you trust" is a news organisation rather than an individual human being. If you ,for whatever insane reason, have decided you'll trust the Daily Mail for your news input, you're more likely to believe their outright fabrications than those from a reputable source.

            "Like that matters? Didn't Hills win the popular vote?"

            Yup. But, the EC system just means that the fake news had to fool less people since the ones not targeted (or could spot the fakes a mile off) weren't having the votes counted the same. That makes it *more* of a problem not less. It means you can't just laugh off the stuff that's obviously lying, since the ones dumb enough to believe the obvious lies still have the same vote as you do - and are usually more motivated to vote because they've been riled up by said lies, which calm intelligent people aren't motivated enough by what's happening in reality.

            "I'd still like to see something posted as confirmed fake news and where it comes from."

            Snopes is full of examples, as are other sites.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2018 @ 12:10pm

      Re:

      That 'second victim' Mahathir Mohamad famously said that the world is run by Jews -- using a word that even hard-core conspiracy theorist David Icke has never uttered openly.

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

  • identicon
    John Cressman, 3 May 2018 @ 6:11am

    Saber rattling

    The US should do some saber rattling and have the State Department put Malaysia on the DO NOT TRAVEL list for the US until they retract such a broad and obviously overreaching and abusive law for violating human rights.

    It's not much, but if enough nations that contribute to the prosperity of Malaysia do it, they'll get the message.

    Seems like this is the "catch all" "get out of jail free" law for the government to arrest and/or fine anyone it feels like since it appears that THEIR version of the facts always triumph.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 May 2018 @ 6:18am

      Re: Saber rattling

      "The US should do some saber rattling"

      Why would they do that? Trump is probably pushing to find a way to have the same laws over there as we speak. Pesky constitution, separation of powers, etc.

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

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 3 May 2018 @ 6:28am

      Re: Saber rattling

      The US should do some saber rattling and have the State Department put Malaysia on the DO NOT TRAVEL list for the US until they retract such a broad and obviously overreaching and abusive law for violating human rights.

      Heh. Before or after Trump's inevitable Twitter rant about the great job Malaysia is doing and how the US needs a law like that to combat the fake news the enemies of the American people -- i.e., New York Times, Washington Post, CNN -- keep publishing?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2018 @ 7:11am

      Re: Saber rattling

      "The US should do some saber rattling"

      As if they are not doing any of this already.

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

  • identicon
    Daydream, 3 May 2018 @ 6:11am

    I'm going to assume...

    ...That whenever someone is fined, jailed or both for fake news, that everything they said, and all of the implications arising from it, is 100% correct.

    Simply because, if these anti-fake-news governments could refute allegations with evidence, they have no need to use force.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2018 @ 6:15am

    every country is getting to be the same, particularly those that are supposed to be free and democratic! whats the reason? mainly because those in charge of these countries are the biggest lying pieces of crap going, who dont want the general public knowing what they are up to, how their lying gets them big back handers and increases to their bank accounts, gets them more power and helps to keep their actions etc away from general knowledge! us, however, are being left as open books with not a single thing remaining unknown or a single second not being under surveillance! in other words, we are being kept out of the picture for as much as possible that these fuckers are up to while we are becoming more and more enslaved!!

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 3 May 2018 @ 6:37am

    Call it what it is: it's not a law, it's a censorship tool being used by an authoritarian regime that should leave asap.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2018 @ 7:20am

    Selective enforcement of the law has been a tool of the rich elite for as long as there have been rich elite and their laws for the little people.

    Recently, these captains of corruption have become rather complacent in their cover ups and as a result are in need of relief from scrutiny. Not sure why, because according to them they are exempt from the law. Perhaps they are showing their vanity? Hahahaha - they are concerned about how they look to the unwashed masses? I doubt it, more like it is a silly contest amongst themselves to see who is the biggest piece of shit anywhere.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 3 May 2018 @ 12:45pm

    LMAO

    How many people in this forum, raise your hands..
    How many people have opinions, raise your hands..
    How many of you DONT agree on everyone Else's Opinion..Raise your hand..
    (I didnt see any hands so I must be right)

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


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