Monthly Archives: June 2012

Changes to Evidence Act will ‘chill ICT growth’

In my effort to lobby for the withdrawal of the Evidence (Amedment) (No. 2) Act 2012, The Edge Daily reported the following:-

Changes to Evidence Act will ‘chill ICT growth’

by theedgemalaysia.com on Thursday, 28 June 2012 09:00

KUALA LUMPUR: The recent amendments to the Evidence Act 1950 will have a “chilling effect” on the country’s development of information and communication technologies, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) said.

The media watchdog group made this statement when handing over a petition against the recent amendments to Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk VK Liew in Parliament on Tuesday.

The petition, bearing more than 3,300 signatures, called on the government to withdraw Section 114A of the Evidence (Amendment) (No 2) Act 2012 because it threatens freedom of expression online and presumes the guilt rather than innocence of Internet users publishing content online, CIJ said in a statement.

CIJ director Jac SM Kee said: “The law is vague and broad enough that it has caused a lot of fear. Majority of Malaysians will err on the side of caution.” The presumption of guilt also disproportionately burdens the majority of Internet users in Malaysia who are not very tech-savvy, the statement said.

“What can an ordinary Internet user do to prove it wasn’t them who published something online when the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission [MCMC] itself sometimes says it doesn’t have the technical resources to find the real culprits?” she told Liew. Liew, however, said many fears are misplaced and agreed that more dialogue is needed. He also thanked the petitioners for presenting their views.

The amendment also makes Internet intermediaries — parties that provide online community forums, blogging and hosting services — liable for content that is published through its services. This has implications on businesses such as eateries that provide free WiFi. 

“If a kopitiam owner is liable for all the traffic that goes through its WiFi, it places a lot of burden on them, in terms of monetary and human resources, to either conduct surveillance or stop providing WiFi altogether,” Kee said.

Joining CIJ at the handover was A Asohan, executive editor of Digital News Asia, and Foong Cheng Leong, co-chair of Kuala Lumpur Bar Information Technology Committee.

Speaking to reporters later, Asohan said: “The fact that MPs from the both sides of the political divide did not understand the wider ramifications of this amendment shows there is a need for greater discussion.

We need more legal brains on it and feedback from the industry and others like Multimedia Development Corp [MDeC] and MCMC. Given that the digital transformation programme will be announced soon, this will be a major issue.”

The controversial amendment was rushed through during April’s parliamentary meeting which saw a raft of laws passed without debate. The amendment made news shortly after when concerns were raised by civil society over its detrimental impact and broad reach, the statement said.

This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily on June 28, 2012.

Internet: Guilty until proven innocent

Following from the forum “Section 114A Evidence Act: Crime-busting or Online Control?” organised by Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Selangor Times reported the following:-

Writer: Basil Foo
Published: Fri, 15 Jun 2012

KUALA LUMPUR: Internet users whose accounts are hacked into will be presumed guilty for unlawful online posts by the actual perpetrators under recent amendments to the Evidence Act, something that is being criticised as absurd.

The Evidence (Amendment) (No 2) Act 2012 will reportedly hold Internet users liable for any content posted through their registered networks or data processing devices.

“For example, if someone parks outside your house and uses your Wifi to post (illegal content online),” said KL Bar Council IT committee co-chairman Foong Cheng Leong.


Participants are all ears at the forum.

He was speaking during the “Section 114A Evidence Act: Crime-busting or Online Control?” forum at the KL-Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall recently.

Foong said laws presuming guilt have always been around, including for individuals who were deemed to be traffickers if they were arrested with a certain amount of drugs.

“The Dangerous Drugs Act (discourages) people from carrying drugs. Will this Act (discourage) people from using the Internet?” he asked.

Center for Independent Journalism (CIJ) director Jac SM Kee said the Act was illogical as victims who sought help after their accounts had been hacked or report the crime to police may find themselves behind bars.

Even if someone else posts an offensive comment on a person’s Facebook wall, the latter could be found guilty.

“Business will be affected. If they provide Wifi (and offensive items are posted through their connection), they are responsible,” said BFM Media Sdn Bhd producer Jeff Sandhu.

He said if restaurants in the city are required by law to provide free Wifi and their Internet connections are open to abuse by irresponsible users, business owners will find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.

Digital News Asia executive editor A Asohan said the Act put average Internet users at the mercy of tech-savvy users who could abuse the former’s unsecure Internet connections.

He said an analyst from investment firm Mackenzie traced 4.1 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) coming from online activities.

“You want to create a high income nation, this is going to put damper on it. You can’t have an Internet community when people fear to go on the Internet,” he added.

Lawyers: Act will result in more cautious Net users

I was quoted in The Star’s recent article on the amendments of the Evidence Act 1950.

PETALING JAYA: The newly-amended Evidence Act will potentially result in a wave of more cautious Internet users, say lawyers, as the onus is now on the person to prove they did not post or create offending material.

If one is hauled up, however, maintaining innocence might prove to be tricky unless Internet users are more thorough with safety measures, they said.

“Witnesses or documents would suffice, depending on circumstan­ces.

“However, if you’re a website owner and someone posts such comments, there’s no way out,” said KL Bar IT Committee co-chairman Foong Cheng Leong.

Foong advised Internet users to secure their WiFi connection, frequently update their anti-virus software, use strong passwords and refrain from retweeting or republishing anything dubious or unverified.

“Or, you could stop using the Internet and start sending snail mail,” he commented, tongue-in-cheek.

Lawyer and activist Edmund Bon said that in the case of anonymous comments, there was al­ways the option of tracking IP addresses.

WiFi providers caught between Evidence Act, DBKL

Following from the forum “Section 114A Evidence Act: Crime-busting or Online Control?” organised by Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Malaysiakini reported the following:-

WiFi providers caught between Evidence Act, DBKL
By Koh Jun Lin

Operators of the bigger Kuala Lumpur eateries might as well surrender to the authorities once Section 114(a) of the Evidence Act takes effect.

It would be too risky for them to offer WiFi services to patrons, said BFM radio producer Jeff Sandhu (left) .

This is especially in view of KL City Hall’s announcement in January that food operators occupying premises bigger than 120 sq m must offer WiFi services as a prerequisite for licence application and renewal.

“If you are running a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur and, by law, you are required to have public WiFi, you might as well walk to jail or walk to the cops and say ‘Arrest me!’” said Sandhu.

Sandhu, who produces BFM’s ‘Tech Talk’ segment, was a panelist at a forum last night to discuss the impact of Section 114(a) of the Act.

The amendment would presume that the owner, editor or administrator of a website on which any posting appears – or the owner of the Internet connection or equipment with which the posting was made – is also the person who made the posting, unless it is proven otherwise.

Another panelist, Digital News Asia co-founder A Asohan (right) , said Malaysia has a thriving Internet business scene.

Investors believe this could outpace that of Singapore, but the amendments would put a damper on it, he said.

“You can’t have an Internet economy when people fear for the Internet. You can’t have a high-income nation when people fear to express themselves,” he said.

He also quoted management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company as saying that Internet businesses contribute 4.1 percent to Malaysia’s GDP.

“You want to create a high-income nation. How do you do that? You need have people who are intelligent, educated in the right way – not merely drilled in the basics of science, maths and (who) just answer the questions,” Asohan said.

“A lot of our students are finding this extra knowledge through the Internet. They are willing to express themselves through the Internet… you need to get out of the school system to learn all these things.”
Responding to moderator and The Nut Graph editor Jacqueline Ann Surin, he said online media platforms would be the first victims of this law.

“Let’s face it, we’ve got how many thousand cybertroopers out there? They could just go and disturb all these sites. Now they can have a field day, go into Free Malaysia Today, post something, and the police would say, ‘Ha, got you!’”
‘Easy to forge identities’

Sandhu pointed out it is very easy to forge identities online, and that there is even a 10-step guide available online on how to impersonate another person’s email address.

“It puts the average Internet user at the mercy of the unscrupulous tech-savvy user. It is shielding identity thieves and hackers,” Asohan said.

“The victims are now the guilty, and there is no onus for the government to go after those who steal your identity, post things in your name, hack accounts, do stuff with it.”

KL Bar IT committee co-chairperson Foong Cheng Leong said it would be difficult to handle even the “rebuttable presumptions” once a person is charged.

“You go to court (with a civil suit). The fees are at least RM50,000-100,000 and you are there to defend against a High Court case as a normal, middle class, working citizen,” he said.

“How are you going to, first, get a lawyer. You also need technical assistance from someone who has technical abilities to look at all these modems, all these routers, and all these devices that you have to prove that it (the offensive posting) didn’t come from you.”

Foong said this would not even be possible if it were a criminal proceeding because the modus operandi of the police would be to confiscate the equipment.

“Once they take it from you, how are you access your own PC and show that ‘at this time I did not access anything’? The thing is lying somewhere in a exhibit room,” he said.

Foong said there is a need to deal with Internet trolls (people engaging in anti-social behaviour online), but the new law is not up to the task.

“We need something more technical. We need expertise to trace people online. The law is not the way to solve this. It is simply putting the blame on someone. In Chinese, we call this ‘eat the dead cat (being a scapegoat)’,” he said.

Centre for Independent Journalism director Jac SM Kee said the new law restricts freedom of expression and promotes a culture of surveillance. The media watchdog has started an online petition against the amendments.

Podcast: Onus is on you to prove your cyber innocence

I was interviewed by Malaysiakini in their podcast recently on the Evidence (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012.

For our 15th Middle Malaysia podcast, we speak to Foong Cheng Leong, co-chair of the KL Bar IT Committee, about the new amendments to the Evidence Act. It was Foong who first broke the news about the new amendments via an article on the LoyarBurok blog.

He says the article at first didn’t garner much attention. That all changed when theSun published a front-page article based on it. Now, everyone’s talking about the serious implications of the new amendments.

Foong gives a broad overview of what the new law is all about and explains why it should be of grave concern for all those who use the Internet. He also gives his opinion on different social media scenarios where the Evidence Act could be applied.

His concerns, however, are not just on how this new law could affect criminal and politically-charged cases but also civil cases.

Lastly, he gives an example of how this law could affect cases concerning election offences and gives a real-life example of a past case that probably would have turned out very differently had the new law been in place then.

Foong, who often comments about IT issues, is totally against this law and is working towards having it repealed.

Lets Talk – Amendments To The Evidence Act 1950

I was recently interviewed by The Malaysian Observer.TV (also known as www.mobtv.my), an internet TV portal. You can see the video below.

The new amendments to the Evidence Act 1950 that Parliament passed in April might force an innocent party to show that he is not the publisher. Vicims of stolen identity or hacking would have a lot more problems to fix, and it is dangerous to put the onus on Internet users, said Foong Cheng Leong, a lawyer/blogger.

Watch the video here.

Public Forum – Section 114A Evidence Act: Crime-busting or Online Control?

I will be speaking at the above event today.

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is organising a public forum on the newly introduced Section 114(a) of the Evidence Act 1950 which has a huge impact on the average Internet user.

Our panel of experts will discuss the amendment and its implication on online expression and Internet rights, looking at it from the point of view of not just the average user but also the IT industry, especially upcoming technopreneurs.

Here are the details:

Section 114A Evidence Act: Crime-busting or Online Control?

Date: June 12, 2012 (Tuesday)

Time: 8pm – 10:30pm

Venue: KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Auditorium, 1st Floor

The forum will look at the newly introduced amendment and its repercussions on Internet users, especially on the people’s rights to freedom of expression online.

Panel:

  • Foong Cheng Leong is the KL Bar IT committee co-chairman and member of the Bar Council Intellectual Property Committee. He regularly comments and writes on issues pertaining to social media and internet laws and the latest being “Grave Repercussions for Internet Users” published on LoyarBurok.com.
  • Jac sm Kee is a feminist activist working on the area of internet rights, feminism and sexuality. She’s the women’s rights policy coordinator for the Association for Progressive Communications, and one of the directors of CIJ.
  • Jeff Sandhu is producer for Tech Talk on BFM radio. Tech Talk is a technology segment dedicated to business owners, IT managers and the average user. This 30-minute segment from Mondays to Fridays has been on Malaysian airwaves for 3 years. Jeff comes from a multimedia design background, majoring in video and animation, and has worked in advertising and post-production.
  • A. Asohan spent 20-plus years with The Star, Malaysia’s No 1 English daily, mainly with the paper’s technology pullout In.Tech and with its digital or online media operations. In 2010, he left to take over as the Senior Public Relations Manager at Microsoft Malaysia, but returned to journalism recently to formDigital News Asia, a technology news portal, with two others.

 

 Scroll to top