The Malaysian government intends to implement international standards to regulate the internet, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. There is no information as to when this will happen, but it comes after comments from the Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak who said that the government is considering introducing a bill that would require online portals to register themselves.
“I specifically say regulate, not restrict, so that none should have to suffer being criminally defamed and so that the Internet does not become an ungoverned space dominated by insults and untruths,” said Najib during a speech organised by Malaysian Institute of Management.
While talk of plans to regulate the internet in Malaysia is not entirely new, it is unknown what international standards the Prime Minister was referring to. At the moment, there is no unified code of conduct for the internet; and many countries has simply allowed it to become the wild west of the 21st century. Most legislation governing online content tends to lean towards protection minors from abuse.
He could be referring to measures implemented by third world countries attempting to control access to certain sites and kinds of comments that appear online. However, the Prime Minister reassured the audience that the regulations would not be used against people who are simply expressing their opinions.
“We are acutely aware of the criticisms levelled at the government and we are listening. Unlike in many other countries in the developing world, no one will ever be arrested or prosecuted for the legitimate expression of their opinions,” he said.
It is likely that Najib was referring to Middle Eastern countries that had implemented controls on the internet, and had arrested people for their online comments. This, inevitably, ended with massive social unrest and the Arab Spring.
Talk of extensive regulation of the internet is not new to this country, and we can only wait to see what kinds of legislation comes out of this proposal. And more interestingly, what kind of international standards our government has been looking at.