WHAT IS THERE FOR US TO PONDER?

Max Headroom

Laws in Cyberspace

By BHAG SINGH

Bloggers are not above the law. They can be sued or prosecuted, like anyone else.

BLOGGERS are sometimes accused of telling lies and described as rumour-mongers who can cause disharmony amongst the people and therefore cause damage to the country. To some people, it appears that there are no laws in cyber space and that the law of the jungle prevails. This is far from the truth because bloggers are certainly not above the law.

However, the laws that govern cyber space are like existing conventional laws, with some weaknesses which create difficulties in taking action against a perceived offender.

Even without the Internet, a person may make copies of offensive material and post it to numerous people without disclosing who the sender is. It may not be possible to immediately know who the author or sender is.

The same applies to bloggers who choose to remain anonymous. In such a situation, at best, one can only find out where the offensive content originated from, not necessarily who the sender is. This applies to those who attempt to keep their identity undisclosed.

However, many bloggers do not hide their identities. In which case, the situation discussed above will not be relevant nor the difficulty of identifying them be an issue.

Leaving aside the issue of identity of bloggers, the laws of the land apply with equal intensity to everyone, whether what is complained against is a verbal communication or communication through writing or the electronic medium. However, there is a difference in terms of pre-publication restraint.

The Communication and Multimedia Act 1998 specifically provides that publishers of content through this medium are not immune to action being taken against them if what is published is defamatory, seditious or in any way in breach of other specific laws.

Therefore, if anyone feels defamed by what is published on a website, he has the option of taking action against the blogger because the law clearly allows for this.

The only difference with content on the Internet is that there is no prior censorship even in the broad sense of the word. This is because section 3(2) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 states that “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting the censorship of the Internet”.

Therefore the only difference in the law is that those who communicate content through the Internet are not generally restrained on a pre-publication basis but remain nevertheless accountable for any wrongdoing on their part.

Of course, if someone continues to publish content that is defamatory on the Internet, it is always open to an aggrieved person to apply to the courts for an injunction to restrain such a blogger. A blogger who disobeys the injunction will have to face the usual consequences.

In fact, the law goes further when making such a blogger liable for publishing content that is defamatory, seditious or in breach of any specific law such as the Official Secret Act. The Act by Section 211(1) says that “no content application service provider, or other person using a content applications service, shall provide content which is indecent, obscene, false, menacing, or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person”.

A person who does so commits an offence and is, on conviction, liable to a fine not exceeding RM50,000 or to imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both, and can be liable to a further fine of RM1,000 for every day or part of a day during which the offence is continued after conviction.

The subject of indecent or offensive material is also provided for in the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Code which was registered with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission on Sept 1, 2004.

The Code identifies what is regarded as offensive and objectionable or indecent content whilst spelling out the obligations of content providers in the context of the social values of the country. This Code is administered by the Communications and Multimedia Content Forum, which acts through a Complaints Bureau whose jurisdiction is defined in the Code and the procedure regulated by the Complaint Bureau By-laws.

Where for any reason it is not possible or desired to act against the person who has originated objectionable content, the Complaints Bureau provides an option to have the content application service provider remove or cease the continued display of the content complained against.

It will be clear from this that when it comes to bloggers, it is not such a lawless area after all. The legal and regulatory mechanism, both on a self-regulatory basis and otherwise, do exist. Whether those who feel aggrieved want to exercise their rights or consider it too troublesome or, for any other reason, do not desire to pursue the matter, is left entirely to them.

The Star - ISSUES, Tuesday 14 August 2007

I took this article from The Star 14 August 2007 and reposted it in my blog for one reason; as a "microscopic" blogger, I must be responsible in whatever writings or posting that I had posted earlier on in my Bacalah blog. At the same time I would like to highlight the roles of CMCF (Communication and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia) in media, as well as being a content regulator body in Malaysia.

With this in mind, I would also like to inform my Bacalah blog readers (Jose, macamlah blog kau tu popular sangat!!) that 20 August 2007 would be my last day in CMCF, as lady luck is with me all the time. I got a better offer from one company (mind you, it is a GLC company!) really hope to recuperate my writing skills (Jose, as if you have one!) with plenty of nonsense written materials and the like for the blog.

Previously, I do admit I am a bit reluctant to scribble anything for my blog because of the self restraint that is bothering me down to my spine.

There are many things, which we could help to encourage people in taking up blogs as a new media of expression. In a way, blogs can help many in giving ways to disseminate their ideas or even share their train of thought with the public.

One thing which has been haunted me for many months, or maybe even years to come is the existing websites which are similar to You Tube (Jose, dia lebih kurang macam blog tapi ini video blog!). There are some which I would like to name, such as http://www.streamload.com, http://www.clipshack.com, http://www.dropshots.com, http://www.bolt.com, http://www.fluckiest.com, http://www.vimeo.com . Feel free to surf them and get a better picture about what video blog is all about.

From my personal opinion, video blogs are more dangerous and more harmful, if compared to the normal writing blogs. The normal blogs are most likely to harm a certain degree of trust in our society, i.e. towards the Government or even in our beliefs towards religion.

But video blogs can create worrisome towards the society in terms of the content available in it. Anybody can just upload their personal videos and it may likely be on sexual content related. There are many possibilities that can happen and it is about time the people, especially the Government should stop worrying so much about blogs and start educating people about the threat that can be carry out through video blogs.

Malaysians are wise enough to understand and know which side is right or wrong. They can read thousands of article available in blogs but an innocent child could easily be influenced by anything via the media (Macam video blog, Jose..)

The Government should stop worrying too much about contents of a blog and start monitoring the video blogs. Sometimes these video blogs contains insensitive content and could even harm the harmony among Malaysians. What happened to the Negarakuku video clip?

P.s - Remember Max Headroom? He was almost an icon during the 80's.

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