Bloggers: Self-regulation better than Internet laws

KUALA LUMPUR: The Internet laws imposed in countries like China, Iran and Singapore are too harsh and should not be implemented in Malaysia, say bloggers and media analysts.

They felt that social media users should practise self-regulation and be prepared to face the music should their postings breach the accepted norms of the freedom of speech.

There were also those who felt that the formation of an independent body or institution to curb the emerging trend of social media users openly instigating and promoting hatred and chaos in cyberworld could assist in self-regulation.

Blog House Malaysia adviser Datuk Ahirudin Attan said calls for by certain quarters to monitor and impose Internet laws as practised by China and Iran would be akin to killing an ant with a hammer.

“It would be unfair to the majority of social media users, who use the platform wisely and they shouldn’t be punished for the recklessness of a handful few who don’t.”

Ahirudin, more popularly known as Rocky’s Bru, said emulating Singapore, which announced recently that news-based websites would be required to obtain a licence to operate, was also not the best option.

“We are far more advanced in terms of online freedom compared with Singapore and we shouldn’t fully follow the laws implemented by our neighbour.

“In the end, it boils down to the individuals themselves who should exercise control over their postings and be ready to face the authorities should they breach it.”

The Singapore Media Development Authority (MDA) had announced new rules stipulating that websites that had at least 50,000 unique visitors from the republic state every month and published at least one local news article per week over a period of two months must obtain an annual licence.

Websites granted a licence will have to remove “prohibited content” such as articles that undermine “racial or religious harmony” within 24 hours of being notified by the authorities

Licensed websites will also have to put up S$50,000 (RM123,000) as a “performance bond” that can be forfeited if the regulations are not followed.

This, however, has not gone down well with the online community, which raised, among others, the fear that bloggers would also be required to comply.

Ahirudin, a former journalist and editor, said Malaysia should mull the setting up of an independent body akin to the media council in the United Kingdom.

“The council should be formed with the help of the government and headed by a former media practitioner or someone of stature, like a judge or the head of a non-governmental organisation (NGO).

“It has to run independently and the council will decide on if an offence had been committed.”

Ahirudin said once this had been ascertained, it was up to the authorities to mete out the necessary action.

“Restricting the Internet will only make matters worse. The government has to adhere to its promise of not censoring the Internet but come up with other solutions.


“At the same time, we should educate the youngsters and remind the elders that posting such materials online will only put them in trouble.”

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s School of Media and Communication senior lecturer, Dr Sabariah Mohamed Salleh, said it was “too harsh” to block social media sites.

“Too many restrictions can make people retaliate. There should be rules and laws to curb this growing problem but, at the same time, I feel that one can never fully control the social media,”

Sabariah questioned how laws similar to those imposed in China, Iran and Singapore could be used to restrict Malaysians living abroad posting slanderous remarks.

“What about those living abroad? They’re not in the country, so how are you going to restrict the things they post?”

She, however, felt that Singapore’s Internet laws were a good example to follow but stressed that a thorough research had to be carried out to find out the best way to curb users from posting slanderous materials online.

Blogger Helen Ang echoed Ahirudin’s sentiment, saying that the onus of accountability fell on the social media user.

“This is becoming a social problem. Defamation will be there, but users must be able to back their postings and be ready to face punishment according to the law should they commit an offence.”

Ang also disagreed with following the footsteps of China and Iran in imposing Internet laws.

Blogger Y.L. Chong said it was impossible to impose such rulings.

“It would not be right to benchmark us against China which still struggles to fully contain the materials posted online despite the power-house’s resources and manpower.

“Should we review the laws, we should benchmark against the likes of those imposed in the United States and UK so that we can aspire to higher standards,”

Chong also explained that in order to fully monitor and restrict the Internet, the country needed an immense amount of resource and manpower.

“If China can’t do it, how can we? Huge volumes are posted daily on social media sites. It will be unthinkable to monitor everything,”

He said social media users must be educated on what they could post and what they shouldn’t.

“The same rules and regulations imposed for the mainstream media should be used for the social media.”

Read more: Bloggers: Self-regulation better than Internet laws – General – New Straits Times

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