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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Malaysia to register bloggers as well?

This is probably old news to some, but I'm going to put it here for archiving purposes anyway. One day after the previous post on China planning to register its bloggers, The Star (3 Dec 2006) reports:

"Cyber law mulled to block lies in blogs"
by Hah Foong Lian

SITIAWAN: Registering bloggers may be a “stricter” way to stop cyberspace writers from spreading disharmony and lies.

Acknowledging that the registration of bloggers was a difficult task, Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Kong Cho Ha said that it needed the cooperation of other countries.

Kong said: “We need to have stricter cyber laws to prevent these bloggers from disseminating disharmony, chaos, seditious material and lies.

“We are talking about creating cyber laws to control those who misuse the Internet,” he added.

Kong noted that the high number of bloggers in the country was a good development if they used the Internet constructively.

However, he said, some of them would put up sensational or controversial articles or images to attract readers to their blogs.

“We want our bloggers to be responsible, to keep within the rules and not put up seditious articles that can create disharmony and chaos,” he said.

Citing the example of the recent picture of Gombak MP Datuk Dr Rahman Ismail and Senator Datin Paduka Norhayati Onn, Kong said it reflected the irresponsible acts of some bloggers.

“Now we have cyber laws to check such misuse but the laws need to change to keep up with the times.

“This is because technology changes faster than our laws,” he said yesterday after opening the inaugural computer fair at Dewan Merdeka in Seri Manjung, near here.

The fair was organised by the Association of the Computer and Multimedia Industry of Malaysia (Pikom).

I have already put up my simple arguments on why it is illogical for the government to register bloggers under the guise of protecting privacy and rights. MoSTI is taking a slightly different tune on stopping "the spread of disharmony and lies", but it is essentially operating on the same vein. The government feigns to be protective but what it is really trying to do is to expand its control upon the cyber space. It is interesting to look at bloggers posting on the issue.

Vincent Chow points out that it is a "mission impossible". It is impossible for the government to track every blog "unless all Malaysian bloggers are using the same and only blog platform, host and system".

Whatalulu foresaw the copy-cat situation and figured that bloggers would be found via their digital trails anyway, so there is no point dodging the registration. Lively discussion is going on within her comment box, on violation of privacy and how people will still be able to avoid digital trails if they want to.

Astrosurge was visibly angry over how the government's need for control.

Raja Petra of MalaysiaToday simply quoted the news and the discussion started rolling. Thus far there has been 33 comments.

Chanlilian remarked: "The only party that needs to keep up with the times are those who preach Vision 2020 but live in the tempurung and hoping others do too."

SKThew highlights the concern and an article from Reporters without Borders.

Tony Pua turns the tables and says instead, "If a blogger has committed a real crime, such as defamation through the spread of lies, take him to court and prove the case. If the blogger has committed no such crime when exposing unpleasant truths with regards to government or BN officials, Deputy Minister Kong should instead "be responsible", "have ethics and self-respect" by not insinuating serious allegations and spreading lies with regards to the integrity of the relevant blogger."

My take? Well, this is an obvious strategy of the government trying to work around its promise of non-censorship of the Internet, to try pressuring it into self-censorship. However, as highlighted by Vincent Chow, it will be no easy feat. The worst case scenario for the government is that not only will it put itself in a bad light, it may not succeed in its endeavour (which will be a double whammy). There is also a possibility that they are just saying that as a warning to outspoken bloggers out there, but do not actually intend to take any action.


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