PM moots suing errant digital platforms, using existing laws on cyberspace

·2-min read
PM moots suing errant digital platforms, using existing laws on cyberspace
PM moots suing errant digital platforms, using existing laws on cyberspace

Muhyiddin Yassin has mooted tougher enforcement on cyberspace, including possible legal action against errant digital platforms.

In his keynote speech at the first online Asean Digital Ministers Meeting today, the prime minister also said new laws or mechanisms were needed to allow existing legislation to be applied.

He noted that technology and how people communicate, work, conduct online transactions and even to defend national security have evolved at a rapid pace, which in return resulted in new threats and challenges.

"Asean member states should consider legislation on data privacy and users' rights that can be applied to any digital entity practising in the region.

"Digital platforms could be required to assume greater accountability, allowing them to be sued as long as they have control over their products,” he added.

Apart from this, Muhyiddin said there needs to be stronger legislation with regard to hate speech, requiring digital platforms to either remove or punish hate speech, including those against race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

In Malaysia, existing laws such as the Penal Code, Sedition Act, and Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) are applied to cyberspace.

However, the Multimedia Super Corridor's bill of guarantees ensures there is freedom from censorship.

Former premiers Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Najib Abdul Razak had also assured that the Internet would not be censored - although the latter did introduce a Fake News Act, which was seen as a tool to stifle dissent.

Observers have noted that the Muhyiddin government has shown an inclination towards online policing.

Last week, the Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission warned netizens not to make rude comments following the proclamation of an emergency and the second movement control order.

It said comments that were false, rude or threatening could be punished under the CMA.

Last year, Communications and Multimedia Minister Saifuddin Abdullah also said that all filming required a licence from the National Film Development Corporation (Finas) even for personal social media.

After backlash, the minister clarified that the government had no intention of using the Finas Act to suppress personal freedoms on social media.

According to Suaram's 2020 human rights report, there were 20 probes under the Sedition Act launched last year. Nineteen of those investigations came after the change in government.

Comparatively, the 2019 report recorded 12 sedition probes.

Likewise, there were 93 CMA probes recorded in 2020, compared with 34 the year before. Of last year's CMA probes, 23 were launched before the March change in government.