Malaysia: Government Vows to Review Web Censorship Law After Protest

Update 18/8/2012: The Cabinet has upheld the amendments made to Section 114A of the Evidence Act.

On the August 14 2012, thousands of Malaysians participated in an online protest against the recently introduced Section 114A, an amendment in the law that is deemed by many as a threat to internet freedom.

A blog specially created for this cause, posted details about how this law would affect Malaysians:

Titled “Presumption of Fact in Publication”, Section 114A holds the following people accountable for publishing content online:

(1) those who own, administrate, or edit websites open to public contributors, such as online forums or blogs;

(2) those who provide webhosting services or Internet access; and

(3) those own the computer or mobile device used to publish content online.

In other words, if allegedly defamatory content is traced back to your username, electronic device, and/or WiFi network, Section 114A presumes you are guilty of publishing illicit content on the Internet.

But what if you were the victim of identity theft and a hacker wrongfully used your Twitter or Facebook account to post defamatory content?

Under Section 114A, you are still considered guilty until proven innocent.

The campaign seeks to have influential bloggers and news sites insert a pop-up in their respective websites on August 14 to inform their readers about 114A, so that awareness of this would be spread to as many Malaysians as possible to protest the enactment of this law.

Shannon Chow, a lifestyle blogger in Malaysia, supported the campaign:

I am supporting STOP 114A. Internet should be an independent platform, however, with Section 114A not only did the law encourage hackers or identity theft to get away by posting to another person account be it on social networks or through devices and even Wifi, the person who is innocent will be guilty only until proven innocent. This is unfair!

The massive online protest has even prompted the Prime Minister, who rarely comments on national affairs, to post a tweet on the issue:

I have asked Cabinet to discuss section 114A of the Evidence Act 1950. Whatever we do we must put people first .

Below is a video of the Centre for Independent Journalism explaining the dangers of the 114A amendment in the law

Malaysiakini reported that #Stop114A became a trending topic worldwide on Twitter. Among some of the Tweets on the issue are the following:

@magskl75: @NajibRazak if U claim “whatever we do we must put people 1st” then the discussion shld have taken place b4 the amendment to EA

@FaktaBukanAuta: If your government shuts down the internet, keep calm and shut down your government.

@davidlian:If you're Malaysian, online and love using Facebook / Twitter etc. you should read this and write your MP.

@zulhilmisalleh: Every free wifi access page will have an extra clause in the terms and condition in which exclude liability. but we wouldn't know.

@JustinTWJ: @netraKL I'm so proud to play a part in this campaign! #stop114A. Had 3 hours of sleep last night then off to school. Feeling great now.

A Facebook page has also been set up for this cause, which at the time of writing has garnered 47,000 Likes. It has also gained attention worldwide with reports from global news networks such as the BBC and Forbes. The Stop 114A blog also has a list of resources on the issue, such as media coverage and information on the law, including the chronology of the passing of the law.

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