For Many Malaysians, Section 114A Sucks In The Age of Social Media
by Lim Yung-Hui, Contributor
Today is Internet Blackout Day in Malaysia. It is a coordinated online campaign, organized by the Centre For Independent Journalism, protesting the enactment of Evidence (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 2012 by the Parliament of Malaysia. Some participating sites are blacking out for 24 hours today; many more are displaying the Blackout Day pop-up on their websites.
The Amendment aims to facilitate the identification and proving of the identity of an anonymous person involved in publication through the Internet. However, the amended Act is pregnant with unintended consequences. The insertion of Section 114A in the amended Act is controversial, mainly because it is fairly easy for fairness to start down the slippery slope. And for the most part, it is being perceived as a sinister attempt to stifle freedom of expression on the Internet.
Section 114A of the Act outlines the court’s presumption of facts and the most troubling presumption made is that whoever in any manner facilitates to publish or re-publish the publication is presumed to have published or re-published the contents of the publication.
Owners of social networking sites or websites with forums or blog’s owner, for example, are presumed to publish any seditious postings made by its community member, as the site owners facilitate the publication of the seditious postings. A person re-sharing a post on Facebook site can also be considered as facilitating the re-publication of any contentious content. The accused-but-innocent person must then create reasonable doubt to the court’s assumed facts.
Hacked social networking account can be used to spread slanders, smears, and lies by a rogue. But the hacked victim whose name, photograph or pseudonym appears on any publication depicting himself as the owner is assumed by the court to have published the controversial content.
The victim then may need to navigate a labyrinth of technical complexity to prove her or his innocence and such endeavor is likely to be financially and emotionally draining. This year alone, we have seen a number of security breach incidents on prominent websites, namely LinkedIn, Last.fm, Blizzard’s Battle.net, and the Twitter’s account of Reuters. No wonder many online users in Malaysia are nervy about a plethora of possible worst case scenarios
rought forth by the enactment of Section 114A.
UPDATE: Prime Minister of Malaysia posted a tweet saying his Cabinet is reviewing Section 114A of the Evidence Act.