When I read that the government was mulling over proposed amendments to the Printing Presses and Publications Act (1984), I got curious. Then, when I read that they were thinking of redefining “publication” to include Internet media, and that they were planning to amend guidelines on films to include downloaded content, I started to laugh very hard.
I think that the Home Ministry needs to hire some IT consultants, instead of legal consultants, before making this kind of amendments to the law. It would be impractical to enforce such a law. Governments have tried this everywhere around the world, and have failed. While it is easy to expand the definition and scope of the law to include Internet blogs, comments and Facebook, it is impossible to enforce it.
Enforcement would require some sort of review mechanism. With the print media, this is done through the issuing of licenses and shutting down illegal publications. However, it would be impossible for the government to shut down illegal on-line publications. Since most of these sites are located overseas where the government has no jurisdiction, it would be impossible for the government to shut down these illegal blogs.
So, people who want to write bad things on their blog, would still be able to do so easily. What the government will do is just make life more difficult for the legitimate folks – people like TheStar or NST. Malaysia Today will still continue publishing its content regardless of what the government says about it. It’s leader is living in self-imposed exile after all. It’s not like RPK has anything to lose. He can just move all the servers over to the UK.
It is not going to affect the rest of the rakyat much either. Unfortunately for the government, the genie is out of the bottle. Years of government pushed Internet proliferation in Malaysia has turned our citizens into some of the largest on-line communities in the world. The government will have to punish a lot of people in order for this to have any affect. Singling out individual examples, will not work very well.
In fact, it will probably galvanise everyone around a common cause instead. For one, our local hacking community, will definitely come up with innovative ways to work-around any sort of hurdle that the government comes up with. There is nothing that the government can do to stop Internet anonymity and people mouthing off on the Internet.
I have always contended that the only solution to this problem is education – not brain-washing. Educate the people on the facts and let them be their own judge. Looking at on-line communities, they tend to organise themselves fairly well. Someone who says an idiotic thing on a forum, would probably get flamed by everyone else on the forum and/or be kicked off.
Anyway, I wish our government the best. It is good that the Minister says that they are merely studying it and will only come to a decision later. They will only waste more money trying to come up with a system to pantau this thing.
They may be able to tell MyNIC to revoke certain .my domains but how many malicious blogs actually use .my domains? They can tell our local ISPs to block certain IPs and that can be side-stepped using something like VPN or TOR. They can tell our local ISPs to filter certain black-listed domains but that can be worked-around by using Google DNS or OpenDNS.