Again, a ruling politician attempts to get the government to rein in and control social media
And again, points to non-existent laws in other countries to shore up his argument
THE current sitting of the Malaysian Parliament, the first since the 13th general election in May, served its fair share of ‘what-the-what’ moments, most of them courtesy of Bung Mokhtar Radin, the Member of Parliament for Kinabatangan.
In a damning indictment of the level of discourse in what was supposed to be an august house, he urged AirAsia X chief executive Azran Osman Rani to leave the country for daring to criticise the Malay-language daily Utusan Malaysia for its attacks on the Chinese Malaysian community, independent news portal The Malaysian Insider reported.
I could go on about how, by the sedition and media laws of the land, Utusan would have had its licence revoked if it were any other media outlet, and not one owned by Umno, the dominant component party of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition. But that would be just wasting time on an obvious truth.
It was what else Bung said that should be of more direct concern to Digital News Asia (DNA) readers and the tech ecosystem as a whole – especially the countless startups in the country basing their business on social media.
In a report by the national news agency Bernama, also published on The Malaysian Insider, Bung criticised industry regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) for “failing to control social media.”
Describing the Commission as a “toothless tiger,” he said the “weakness of its system and enforcement of the law resulted in people with vested interest taking advantage of the situation by using social media to disrupt harmony in the country.”
“Hence, the time has come for the government to formulate a tougher law so that misuse of the social media can be checked,” Bung said, according to the Bernama report.
Far be it for me to defend the MCMC, a task which it can do quite ably by itself when it has a mind to, but I did wonder what law the MP was referring to.
I am not sure how he thinks a Malaysian body can control social media – sites and networks which are operated by overseas companies with revenues that would put the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of many a developing country to shame.
As for the laws we have in this country, they’re tough enough to withstand any actual of misuse of social media – it’s the enforcement and investigations that need to be shored up, and that would be better served by proper training of law enforcement personnel.
Indeed, if anything, Bung could have chided the authorities, and not merely the MCMC, for failing to apply what laws we do have fairly and consistently, so that when a pro-Barisan blogger posts sex videos because they purportedly involve an Opposition leader, he would face the same action as an ordinary Malaysian tweeting his disgust at a government decision.
Still, the real ‘what-the-what’ moment came in this sentence in the Bernama report [emphasis mine]: “Bung Mokhtar also drew attention to the fact that this did not happen in Singapore and Britain because of the licensing of social media, thus making those concerned responsible for what they posted.”
What the what? How did Bung pull this one out of the hat? And why did Bernama describe it as drawing attention to the fact when there is no such thing?
This is the first I have heard of such licensing requirements in those two countries. I furiously bing-ed (‘bung’ in the past tense?) and googled, and could find no reference to such licensing requirements.
Sure, Singapore recently rolled out new regulations for online news sites in the republic – much criticised and still hotly debated – but its government went out of its way to explain that these new regulations do not affect blogs and social media.
And as for Britain, an even bigger ‘what-the-what.’ Surely he cannot be referring to former Information, Communications and Culture Minister Dr Rais Yatim’s suggestion in July last year that Malaysia set up a ‘social media council’?
In making his proposal, saying that such a council would “discuss various issues and aspects relating to the law and usage of the media,” Rais erroneously or disingenuously pointed to social media councils in the United States and the United Kingdom.
But as DNA pointed out then, those councils were strictly for digital marketers and covered codes of conduct and best practices for social media marketing – they definitely do not involve licensing requirements for ordinary Americans and British to use social media.
So perhaps Bernama and Bung can point us to sources where these social media licensing requirements for Britain and Singapore are laid out. I am genuinely curious.
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