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Malaysia parliament passes anti-fake news law

[JURIST] The Malaysian Parliament [official website] passed an Anti-Fake News bill [text, PDF] on Monday, outlawing fake news in an effort to prevent corruption.

The law seeks to criminalize acts and publications that would deceive the public. Specifically, the : "[c]reating, offering, publishing, etc., fake news or publication containing fake news ... [p]roviding financial assistance for purposes of committing or facilitating commission of offence under section 4 ... [f]ailing to carry out duty to remove publication containing fake news." The bill describes "fake news" as: "any news, information, data and reports, which is or are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas." Those convicted of violating the law can face a maximum $500,000 fine and imprisonment of up to six years. The fake news publication will immediately be removed from the media and the convicting court may also require a public apology.

The Act's explanatory statement sets forth the law's importance, stating:

As the technology advances with time, the dissemination of fake news becomes a global concern and more serious that it affects the public ... The provision on the power of the Court to make an order to remove any publication containing fake news serves as a measure to deal with the misuse of publication medium in particular the social media platforms. With the proposed Act, it is hoped that the public be more responsible and cautious in sharing news and information.
Last week Amnesty International condemned [JURIST report] the bill for its potential to be used to silence dissent [press release] and said it should be "scrapped immediately." The government briefly addressed these constitutional concerns, stating: "The proposed Act seeks to safeguard the public against the proliferation of fake news whilst ensuring the right to freedom of speech and expression under the Federal Constitution is respected."

Malaysia is the first country to pass a law of this magnitude criminalizing fake news, though other countries have attempted to address the issues on a smaller scale. In February Human Rights Watch condemned [JURIST report] a German law requiring social media platforms to immediately remove illegal content. Last April the Turkish government blocked [JURIST report] Wikipedia as a threat to national security.

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