Bread & Kaya: Cyberstalking, harassment … and road rage
By Foong Cheng Leong July 17, 2014
- No specific Malaysian law that criminalises stalking or harassment
- Singapore has enacted such laws, and Malaysia should follow suit
THE recent case of a blogger complaining that she had been harassed and stalked by a fan got me thinking about the law in Malaysia with regards to stalking and harassment.
I think this would depend on the acts of the stalker. There is no specific Malaysian law that criminalises stalking and harassment, but there are provisions of law that prohibit certain actions that border on stalking and harassment.
- Hacking into someone's computer or mobile device or online account, or installing any trojan or tracking device is a crime under the Computer Crimes Act 1997;
- Sending messages threatening to harm a person – depending on the content, this may amount to a criminal offence under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 or Section 503 of the Penal Code (criminal intimidation); and
- Breaking into someone's home amounts to trespass (installing a closed-circuit TV as in the Nasha Aziz case).
There are many forms of stalking and harassment. I've heard of cases where a person would call someone numerous times a day – and in some such cases, keeping silent or even make heavy breathing sounds.
Other cases include following a person from time to time; loitering outside a person's home (which is a public venue, for example a road); downloading someone’s picture off Facebook and publishing it on blogs or online forums with degrading messages; and even frequently posting annoying or insulting comments on a person's Facebook page, blog or Instagram account.
A police report would be useful to ward off these people but not all reports will be acted on. Sometimes no threat is made, and there’s ‘only’ persistent annoyance.
One blogger showed me some persistent emails from an alleged stalker, who also contacted the blogger through phone calls and SMS.
However, the nature of the contact was not a threat but merely invitations to go out, despite the fact that the blogger had expressly asked him to stop contacting her. Such contact would stop for a short period, but return thereafter.
One email from the alleged stalker was just a reproduction of chat messages between the alleged stalker and his friend.
A police report was made but the police could not take any action as there was no threat involved.
In such cases, I think that the police should take proactive action by contacting the alleged stalker and warning him against pursuing the matter further. A lawyer's letter of demand may be useful too.
If all else fails, a restraining order may be obtained from the courts.
The victims are not only women. Vancouver teacher Lee David Clayworth was ‘cyberstalked’ by his Malaysian ex-girlfriend. She posted nude pictures of him and labelled him all sorts of names, according to a CNET report.
A warrant of arrest was issued in Malaysia against his ex-girlfriend but she had reportedly left the country.
Many victims suffer in silence. They try to ignore their stalkers and hope that they go away. Sometimes this works, sometimes it does not.
Our Parliament should introduce a new law to criminalise stalking and harassment. Singapore recently introduced the Protection from Harassment Bill 2014 [link corrected]. This new law will provide protection from harassment and anti-social behaviour, such as stalking, through a range of civil remedies and criminal sanctions.
It's time for our Parliament to look into this before it’s too late.
Regarding the recent Kuantan road rage case, I was asked whether doxing or document tracing by netizens amounts to harassment.
From what I read, some netizens had posted her name, company name and pictures on the Internet, created Facebook pages about her, and also created all sorts of memes featuring her. Some even started bombarding her mobile phone with SMSes and left numerous comments on her company’s Facebook page.
As mentioned, we have no specific law to govern harassment, thus it is difficult to determine whether such acts amount to harassment without a legal definition here.
In my personal opinion, I think there is nothing wrong in exposing the identity of the driver to the public. The lady had posted her own personal information online, thus there is no expectation of privacy with respect to that posted information.
The Personal Data Protection Act 2010 only applies to commercial transactions. But the extraction of her personal information through her licence plate number may be an issue if someone had unlawfully extracted it from a company's database.
Some messages that were posted may also be subject to the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 provisions on criminal defamation. Tracking her home address and taking photographs of it may be considered a form of harassment.
She also has rights (that is, copyright) to the pictures that she has taken (selfies especially), but she will not have rights to her modelling pictures if those were taken by a photographer – in that case, the photographer usually has rights to the photographs.
Foong Cheng Leong is a blogger pretending to be a lawyer, and a lawyer pretending to be a blogger. He blogs at xes.cx and foongchengleong.com, and tweets at @xescx and @FCLCo.
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