Malaysian govt clamps down on fake news with new bill

The Malaysian government has tabled an anti-fake news bill in parliament. Under the new law, those found guilty of publishing or disseminating fake news facing up to 10 years in jail, or face a fine of up to RM500,000, or both.

According to Channel NewsAsia, an additional fine not exceeding RM3,000 be imposed for each day the offence continues following the conviction.

The government said that bill aims to "safeguard the public" against the spread of fake news, while maintaining the right to freedom of speech and expression under the Federal Constitution, multiple media reports stated.

It defines fake news as "news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false". These include audio recordings, features and visuals. If passed, the bill will prosecute individuals outside Malaysia, including foreigners, should the fake news concern Malaysia or if a Malaysian citizen is affected, according to multiple media reports.

(Read also: MY government’s crackdown on fake news: A much needed initiative)

Separately, Communications and Multimedia minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak also said in parliament that WhatsApp (84%) is the top source of fake news among Malaysians, followed by Facebook (8%), blogs and other sources (4%), the New Straits Times reported.

Citing analysis by the Malaysian Communications Multimedia Commission (MCMC), he said that the spread of fake news is "closely linked" to the use of fake accounts. Salleh Said Keruak added that MCMC has taken action to combat this issue, such as blocking 40 websites, blogs and portals that spread fake news and information. It also worked with Facebook and Twitter to remove 80% of 4,358 fake accounts between January 2017 and February 2018.

In February, it also investigated 76 cases of fake news and information dissemination in 2018, with five cases being brought to court. MCMC also launched the portal in 2017, allowing members of the public to verify and report news that have not been authenticated. The commission also recently launched a mobile app to spot fake news on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Malaysia is not the only country concerned about fake news. Across the causeway, Singapore's Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam said that measures are currently in the pipeline to battle the problem of fake news in the country.

Last year, he also called out news sites such as All Singapore Stuff and States Times Review as websites which perpetuate fake stories, raised the potential impact fake news has on national security, on top of ill-profiteering.

Read also:
MCMC will be asked to monitor bloggers and social media users
BN unveils new portal to tackle fake news ahead of general election
Singapore government casts doubts over social media firms in fighting fake news