The Malaysian Parliament [government website] proposed a bill [text, PDF] Monday meant to combat “fake news,” drawing sharp criticism from rights groups such as Amnesty International [advocacy website].
The Anti-Fake News Act 2018 defines fake news as “any news, information, data and reports, which is or are wholly or partly false.” A person who creates, publishes, facilitates or does not remove fake news could be imprisoned for up to 10 years.
Amnesty says [press release] that the definition of fake news is vague and overly broad. The organization condemns the bill for its potential to be used to silence dissent and says it should be “scrapped immediately.”
James Gomez, Amnesty’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said “It is deeply disturbing that the Malaysian authorities are using the catch-all term ‘fake news’ as an excuse to crack down on critics. The Bill combines the worst of the cheap propaganda coming from the West and the repressive laws and policies in the East.”
Freedom of speech on the Internet has been a subject of much legislation and litigation internationally. Last month Human Rights Watch condemned [JURIST report] a German law requiring social media platforms to immediately remove illegal content. In June the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that North Carolina’s social media restrictions for sex offenders were unconstitutional. In April the Turkish government blocked [JURIST report] Wikipedia as a threat to national security.