Digital News Asia

Bread & Kaya: Dear Attorney General Tommy Thomas, we need to speak about our Malaysia cyberlaw and IT laws reforms

By Foong Cheng Leong | Jun 22, 2018

– Act is clearly against the very fundamental principal of “innocent until proven guilty”
– Need law to curb creation of fake news, especially if created to stoke racial or religious sentiments

Repeal of 114A of Evidence Act 1950

WHEN s. 114A was introduced in the Parliament in 2012, a protest was held by netizens to urge the Government to repeal s. 114A. The #stop114A campaign was held and Malaysia had it first Internet Blackout Day to protest this section.

S. 114A provides for three circumstances where an Internet user is deemed to be a publisher of a content unless proven otherwise by him or her. The relevant section, namely s. 114A(1), states that “A person whose name, photograph or pseudonym appears on any publication depicting himself as the owner, host , administrator, editor or sub-editor, or who in any manner facilitates to publish or re-publish the publication is presumed to have published or re-published the contents of the publication unless the contrary is proved”.

In simple words, if your name, photograph or pseudonym appears on any publication depicting yourself as the aforesaid persons, you are deemed to have published the content. So, for example, if someone creates a blog with your name, you are deemed to have published the articles there unless you prove otherwise. If you have a blog and someone posts a comment, you are deemed to have published it.

Subsection (2) provides a graver consequence. If a posting originates from your account with a network service provider, you are deemed to be the publisher unless the contrary is proved. In simple terms, if a posting originates from your TM Unifi account, you are deemed to be the publisher. In the following scenarios, you are deemed to be the publisher unless you prove the contrary:-

(1) You have a home network with a few house mates sharing one internet account. You are deemed to be the publisher even though one of your house mates posts something offensive online.
(2) You have wireless network at home but you did not secure your network. You are deemed to be the publisher even though someone “piggybacks” your network to post something offensive.
(3) You have a party at home and allows your friends to access your PC or wireless network. You are deemed to be the publisher even though it was a friend who posted something offensive.
(4) Someone use your phone or tablet to post something offensive. You are deemed to be the publisher.

As for subsection (3), you are presumed to have published a content if you have custody or control of any computer which the publication originates from. Here, you are deemed to be the publisher so long your computer was the device that had posted the content. If someone “tweetjacks” you or naughtily updates your Facebook with something offensive, you are deemed to be the publisher unless you prove otherwise.

Clearly, it is against our very fundamental principal of “innocent until proven guilty”.

Position of intermediaries (e.g. platform providers)

Currently, many platform providers are vulnerable to be sued or charged in Court for what their users do. For example, an online forum owner would be liable for publishing defamatory statements made by their users pursuant to s. 114A of the Evidence Act 1950. Online marketplace operators may also be sued because their users sold counterfeit products.

It would be ideal for the Government to induce new laws to protect such platform providers but also the punish errant platform providers. For example, a one-strike or three-strikes rule. Under such proposed one-strike rule, an aggrieved person may file a complaint against the platform provider to remove certain postings. If the platform providers remove such posting within a specific time, the platform provider should be absolved from liability. However, if it fails to do so, it will be liable for the acts of its users.

S. 43H of the Copyright Act 1987 is a good example on how to deal with intermediary’s liable in respect of copyright infringement.

In this regard, the Sedition (Amendment) Act 2015, which is not in operation yet, should be repealed. The said amendment creates, among others, liability on website operators such as online forums, online news portals, and even Facebook page/ group owners. [Read http://foongchengleong.com/2015/04/bread-kaya-how-the-new-sedition-act-affects-netizens/]

Specific laws to govern blocking of websites or other electronic platforms.

All blocking orders should be made public and their detailed reasons to block websites. Currently, there is no public list other than one independently maintained by Sinar Project and reasons given are usually one-liners (e.g. in breach of s. 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998).

However, there could be specific websites which need not be reviewed due to national security issue, among others. As we all know, blocked websites can still be accessed via other means.

Blocking orders should also be made by the Courts rather than the arbitrary decision of the Minister. The current s. 263 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 is used by the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia to direct internet service providers to block platforms in order to prevent the commission or attempted commission of an offence under any written law of Malaysia. In the past however, we have seen websites being blocked due to political reasons e.g. medium.com and bersih.org.

The Anti-Fake News Act 2018 and Sedition (Amendment) Act 2015 have provisions for websites to be blocked by way of application to the Court. All these blocking order sections and s. 263 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 should be replaced with one single law to govern blocking of electronic platforms.

The law should also allow any person such as users of the platforms to challenge any blocking orders. When the previous Government decided to block medium.com, as far as I know, the site owners did not file any challenge in Court to unblock their website. Many netizens were denied access to informative and educational content from medium.com. There were no specific laws allowing them to challenge the block. They were also unsure if they could meet the threshold to file an action for judicial review.

Specific channels to allow litigants to obtain information about wrongdoers

In the present case, a person who wishes to obtain information about another person, for example another Facebook user who had defamed or harasses him, would need to go through a long and expensive process to obtain such information. Normally these wrongdoers will use platforms provided by foreign companies to attack another user.

It would be ideal if a straight forward process be made to such person to obtain such information. For example, filing a request to the Government for it to request the same from the platform providers.

SS. 211 and 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998

S. 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (which is similar to s. 211) has been used by the previous administration against dissent. The Bar Council has called for the repeal of Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 as it is a serious encroachment on the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 10(1)(a) of our Federal Constitution. I concur with the Bar Council on this.

However, I suggest that new laws be introduced to stop contents which can cause hatred and disturbance about certain individuals or organisations. We cannot have people sending fake messages which can cause a riot, for example.

Anti Fake News Act 2018

Many calls have been made to repeal the Anti Fake News Act 2018, which came into operation weeks before the 14th General Election. One person has been sentenced and many have been investigated for spreading fake news. Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has confirmed that this Act will be repealed.

Notwithstanding such calls to repeal the law, I am of the view that there should be laws to curb the creation of fake news especially those created to stoke racial or religious sentiments. Note that s. 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 requires a communication to target a certain person. Fake news may not necessary be targeting a certain person. It could target a race and a place, for example.

Revamp of the Admissibility of Electronic Evidence

Currently, almost every document printed by a computer is admissible under s. 90A of the Evidence Act 1950. This section should be examined to define clearly on what admissible and not admissible.

The Court’s electronic system should also be upgraded to allow the admissible of all forms of electronic media such as songs, videos and animated files. Currently, lawyers have to burn those evidence in a CD to be filed in Court. This defeats the open justice system where all Court proceedings are accessible to the public.

[Postscript] In addition, the Court’s file search system should also be updated. Currently it allows a user to conduct a file search for 30 minutes (per ticket) via its slow system. It loads page by page and one cannot download all the documents at one go. It should be revamped to allow a user to download the entire file with one single fee.

Laws to protect netizens

New laws should be introduced to criminalise cyberbullying, stalking and harassment. It is noted that this type of acts these days are not made directly against a person.

Government should also study the criminalisation of maintaining cybertroopers. Many organisations in the world including Governments use the services of cybertroopers to attack individuals. They would send threatening, harassing or annoying messages, posting private information of that individual and create fake content about that individual.

Lastly, what we need is meaningful and effectively consultation with the Government. The previous administration had basically shoved us with laws with little consultation. I remember when our #Stop114A team went to meet the then Deputy Minister of Law, V.K Liew, to hand in our petition to repeal s.114A, he said that the Bar Council needs professional advice. I trust that the new Government will make a wise choice in deciding the right people for the right job.


First published on Digital News Asia on 22 June 2018

Bread & Kaya: 2017 Cyberlaw Cases Pt2 – viral content, Uber and appearance of an emoji

By Foong Cheng Leong
Mar 29, 2018

A video clip that was viewed 3 million times deemed to be the truth of an incident
Groupon has its day in court, twice with users not happy with merchants

CARRYING off from where I left off in part one of my review of the interesting Cyberlaw related cases that came to the courts in 2017, I start off with viral content and a case where a video was shared almost 50,000 times. And while Uber Technologies is merging its operations with Grab, it still had its day in court last year with a case in Sabah.

Viral Content

The case of Public Prosecutor v Poovarasan Subramaniam & 2 Others [2017] 1 LNS 1619 determined whether a viral video can be admitted as evidence in a criminal trial.

The 3 accused were charged for murder for a man who had allegedly stolen a mobile phone. In the course of trial during the Prosecution’s case, the Prosecution sought to adduce in evidence a VCD containing a video clip that captured a portion of the incident wherein the victim was assaulted by several men. The video clip went viral on the internet and a prosecution witness had downloaded the same from the blog KITABANTAI into the VCD.

The second accused strenuously objected to the admissibility of the VCD principally because the authenticity of the contents of the VCD is questionable. A trial within a trial (TWT) was held to consider the admissibility of the VCD.

During the TWT, the Prosecution called two bloggers, namely the owners of the blogs KITABANTAI and SIAKAPKELI who had published the video clip, to testify as to the origin of the video clip. KITABANTAI stated that the video came from SIAKAPKELI. SIAKAPKELI later revealed that the video clip came from an online news website called MYNEWSHUB. However, the journalist at MYNEWSHUB does not the exact source of the video clip.

Notwithstanding that the person who originally recorded the video clip live and thereafter uploaded the same in the social media could not be traced and produced in Court as witness, the learned High Court Judge was satisfied that the police investigation team and the Prosecution have used their best endeavours to produce the evidence of the chain of movement of the video clip in cyberspace till it was extracted by the police. The said video clip was admitted as evidence following ss. 90A(1) and (2) and 90C of the Evidence Act 1950. The learned Judge stated that he has no reason to believe that the video clip wasn’t authentic in the circumstances.

This case is in stark contrast with the case of Tan Chow Cheang v Pendakwa Raya (Criminal Appeal No. J-05(LB)-54-01/2016). In this case, the accused was charged with drug trafficking under s. 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952. During the examination of one of the raiding officer, the defence suddenly produced a CCTV recording in a pen drive showing that the drug was planted. On completion of the raiding officer’s evidence, the High Court granted the accused a discharge not amounting to acquittal upon the prosecution’s application notwithstanding that the defence had submitted that the accused was entitled to be acquitted and discharged as upon the production of the CCTV recording, the sole or main prop in the prosecution case collapsed prematurely.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the High Court. The Court of Appeal was of the view that the production of a certificate under s. 90A(2) of the Evidence Act 1950 is not the conclusive way to prove the pen drive’s admissibility. The Court of Appeal held that “to allow it to be admitted in such circumstances in, our view, would be open to abuse. It is not impossible during this era of modern technology for images to be superimposed or tempered with. Therefore, it is only safe for witnesses to be called either to confirm or to rebut it“.

In another case involving viral video (Datuk Wira SM Faisal Sm Nasimuddin Kamal v. Emilia Hanafi & Ors [2017] 1 LNS 1373), the Plaintiff and his ex-wife (1st Defendant) were in Syariah Court of Kuala Lumpur to resolve their matrimonial dispute/issues. Together with them were the family members of the Plaintiff and the 1st Defendant, among others.

On 20.9.2016, the Syariah Court ordered the children of the Plaintiff and 1st Defendant to spend a night with the Plaintiff at his home. The Judge of the Syariah High Court further ordered that the children must not be forced if they do not want to follow the Plaintiff. After that, the proceedings between Plaintiff and 1st Defendant was adjourned for the day.

A video recording was taken after the proceeding in the Syariah Court had ended. The video allegedly showed the aggressive behaviour and use of force by Plaintiff outside the courtroom towards both his 2nd child and wife. The 1st to 4th Defendants then shared the said video clip. The 3rd Defendant had uploaded the video clip on her Snapchat virtual page with the words “SMF shoved them to the ground when he gave up” whereas the 1st Defendant had also uploaded the video clip on her Instagram account with the caption “A mother’s heartache .” On a side note, this is probably the first written judgment in Malaysia featuring an emoji.

The Plaintiff alleged that the video clip went viral. The video clip spread so widely that:

(a) Up to 3 million people viewed the video clip;

(b) Nearly 50 thousand people shared and/or distributed the video clip;

(c) Nearly 15 thousand people made comments, conclusions and/or inferences against the Plaintiff as result of the video clip.”

The Plaintiff sued the Defendants for publishing the video clip. Notwithstanding that the video clip went viral, the High Court struck out the Plaintiff’s case. The learned High Court Judge held that:-

“The video recording that was published was undisputably a recording of an actual and real incident and therefore, cannot be denied as being the truth.”

“The objectionable words and statements complained of are not prima facie defamatory. In fact, the same do not substantially even make reference to Plaintiff nor do they directly or by implication refer to or implicate Plaintiff.”

In Synergistic Duo Sdn Bhd v. Lai Mei Juan [2017] 9 CLJ 244, the Plaintiff sued the Defendant for publishing two (2) Facebook postings in relation to the bad service by BGT Lakeview Restaurant operated by the Plaintiff. The second posting went viral and were shared more than 9,500 times and was reposted and published in newspapers, websites, blogs and other Facebook pages. The Plaintiff submitted that: (i) because of the postings, many of its customers cancelled their bookings and reservations; and (ii) if the Defendant was not restrained by way of an interim injunction, the Plaintiff would continue to suffer grave irreparable loss and damage to its reputation and goodwill.

In granting the Plaintiff’s application for interim injunction, the learned Judicial Commissioner held that the continued publication of postings on the Defendant’s Facebook would cause the Plaintiff’s to suffer further damage to their reputation and goodwill as the potential re-publication of the postings to potentially unlimited number of internet users would irreparably harm the plaintiff’s reputation: which harm cannot be adequately compensated with damages.

Digital Currencies

Due to the rising popularity of digital currencies in Malaysia, Bank Negara issued an exposure draft by the name of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) – Digital Currencies (Sector 6). The document outlines the proposed requirements and standards that a digital currency exchanger as defined under the First Schedule of the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act 2001 (AMLA) must carry out as reporting institutions. This is to ensure effective and robust Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) control measures are in place to safeguard the safety and integrity of the financial system as well as to promote greater transparency in the conduct of digital currencies transactions.

The draft exposure sets out the minimum requirements and standards that digital currency exchangers must observe as reporting institutions to increase the transparency of activities relating to digital currencies and ensure effective and robust AML/CFT control measures are in place to mitigate risks that digital currency exchangers may be used as conduits for illegal activities. Such requirement include conducting risk assessment, risk control and mitigation, risk profiling and customer due diligence, among others.

Digital currency exchangers must also comply with requirements in the document relating to: the identification and verification of customers and beneficial owners, on-going monitoring of customers’ transactions, sanction screening, suspicious transaction reporting and record keeping; transparency obligations; and requirements for the submission of data and statistics to the Bank for the purpose of managing ML/TF risks.

The document is applicable to reporting institutions, regardless that the person is not domiciled in Malaysia, carrying on the following activities listed in Paragraph 25 of the First Schedule to the AMLA:-

activities carried out by any person who provides any or any combination of the following services:

(i) exchanging digital currency for money;

(ii) exchanging money for digital currency; or

(iii) exchanging one digital currency for another digital currency, whether in the course of carrying on a digital currency exchange business or otherwise.

Singapore saw its first cryptocurrency dispute in its Court. The case of B2C2 Ltd v Quoine Pte Ltd [2017] SGHC(I) 11 concerns a cryptocurrency transaction dispute between the Plaintiff (a foreign electronic maker for virtual currency) and Defendant (an online virtual currency exchange platform provider in Singapore) which involves Bitcoin and Ethereum.

The Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant had acted in breach of the contract between them and breach of trust when the platform reversed transactions for the sale and purchase of the cryptocurrencies Bitcoin and Ethereum.

The transactions were unilaterally reversed after the Defendant identified that a technical glitch had occurred to the software used by the platform. Consequently, the Plaintiff had lost the benefit which it could have made if the transaction was not reversed.

The Defendant argued that there was unilateral mistake involved and they are entitled to reverse the transaction. The Plaintiff sought an order for summary judgment.

The Singapore International Court dismissed the summary judgment application by the Plaintiff as there were triable issues raised by Defendant and held that “a thorough investigation of the facts behind the setting of the abnormally high offer price is justified in order to place the court in a proper position fully to assess the state of the Plaintiff’s knowledge”as well as “the law on unilateral mistake where computers are involved in greater detail”.

E-Hailing Services

During the hype of prosecution of drivers of e-hailing vehicle, one Joe Vincent Singgoh sought an order from Court to protect drivers from such prosecution in Sabah. In the case of Joe Vincent Singgoh v Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board Sabah 1 & Ors (Sabah High Court Judicial Review No. BKI-13NCvC-10/10-2016), the Applicant, a person registered with e-hailing service provider Uber Technologies Inc. as a driver, had sought several orders amongst which an order of prohibition against the 1st and 2nd Respondents from relying on the provisions of Section 33 of the Commercial Licensing Vehicles Act 1987 to prosecute or prohibit the Applicant from using the services of Uber Technologies Inc. The Applicant also sought a mandatory injunction was also sought to restrain the prosecution, prohibition of the Applicant to drive or make drives for Uber.

The High Court held that the aggrieved person in this case is not the applicant. The proper person is Uber Technologies Inc. Uber Technologies Inc. has not made any application to the relevant authorities in Sabah for the relevant permits or licences. And in so far as Section 33 is concerned, Uber Technologies Inc. is the ‘person’ responsible to obtain such approvals and not the Applicant. It is not explained or disclosed why this is so.

The Court also held that whatever Uber is promoting is unlawful and illegal. Whether the Government will grant Uber Technologies Inc. the necessary approval or not is a matter for the former to decide as a matter of policy and the Applicants are not entitled to come to court to seek a prohibitive order to pre-empt any legal action that may be taken by the Police of JPJ to enforce the law.

However, the Government will soon be legalising operators of e-hailing service providers and their drivers. The Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (Amendment) Act 2017 and Land Public Transport (Amendment) Act 2017 were introduced to amend the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board Act 1987 (“CVLBA”) (applicable to Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territory of Labuan) and the Land Public Transport Act 2010 (“LPTA”) (applicable to Peninsular Malaysia) respectively to introduce the licensing of intermediation business. Intermediation business is defined as “business of facilitating arrangements, booking or transactions of e-hailing vehicle (pursuant to the new amendment to CVLBA) and for the provision of land public transport services (pursuant to the new amendment to LPTA). These amendments is clearly intended to regulate e-hailing services such as Uber and Grab.

The Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (Amendment) Act 2017 and Land Public Transport (Amendment) Act 2017 also introduced a new class of commercial vehicle namely e-hailing vehicle. This would include the cars driving by Grab and Uber drivers.

Once these amendments are enforced, e-hailing providers like Grab and Uber and also their drivers would need to be registered.

E-Commerce

Groupon Malaysia had another challenging year. The Court had to decide in two (2) cases whether Groupon should be liable for the payment made to them for the purchase of products and services on the Groupon website.

In Groupon Sdn Bhd v Tribunal Tuntutan Pengguna & Anor [2016] 1 LNS 555, the Groupon user in this case bought a tour travel package vide its platform from one of Groupon’s merchants and paid RM999 (tour travel package) and RM652 (compulsory airport tax, surcharges and tipping) to Groupon and the merchant respectively. However, the said merchant allegedly cancelled the tour and Groupon made a refund of only RM999 to the user. Dissatisfied, the user demanded the refund of RM652. Upon the rejection by Groupon, the user filed a complaint to the Consumer Tribunal and it held in favour of the user i.e. Groupon is liable for the said amount of RM652.

Groupon contended that there is an exclusion provision in the travel voucher which states that the RM652 charges is to be paid to the merchant, hence, Groupon should not be compelled to pay for monies it had not received in the first place. The Court conceded and held in favour of Groupon, that “it is unmistakable that the airport tax, surcharges and tipping were not included in the tour travel deal. In other words, they were not borne or absorbed by the Applicant”.

In Groupon Sdn Bhd v Tribunal Tuntutan Pengguna & Anor [2016] 1 LNS 1009, similarly, the Groupon user in this case bought a tour travel package vide its platform from one of Groupon’s merchants and paid a RM999 (tour travel package) and RM450 (compulsory airport tax, surcharges and accommodation) respectively to Groupon and the merchant. Therein, the said merchant allegedly cancelled the tour and Groupon made a refund of only RM999 to the user. Dissatisfied, the user demanded the refund of RM450. Upon the rejection by Groupon, the user made a complaint to the Consumer Tribunal and it held in favour of the user i.e Groupon is liable for the third party payment to its merchant.

Groupon contended that there is no contractual relationship between Groupon and the user in the RM450 transaction and hence it shall not be liable to pay. The Court rejected the argument and held in favour of the user that Groupon had acted as an agent for the merchant and made a representation in the travel package voucher, instructing the user to make the RM450 payment to the merchant. Groupon shall be liable for the damages as the contractual relationship was established between Groupon and the user but not between merchant and user.

Defamation

The case of Dato’ Aishaf Falina Bt Ibrahim v Ismail Bin Othman & 2 Ors (Kuala Lumpur Civil Suit No. 22NCVC-352-07/2015) highlighted two interesting points.

The Plaintiff claimed that she was defamed by the retention of the erroneous information in the human resources information system of the 3rd Defendant (her former husband) and its “publication” via the said system. The alleged erroneous information was the information regarding the Plaintiff’s post-divorce marital status with the 1st Defendant, was kept in the 3rd Defendant’s human resources information system for a period of time after she and the 1st Defendant had been divorced. The first question is whether the publication of the erroneous information via the human resources information system amounts to defamation.

The second interesting point is whether the publication on the intranet amounts to publication.

The High Court held that the 2nd and 3rd Defendants are liable in defamation for the retention of erroneous information concerning the Plaintiff’s marital status in the 2nd Defendant’s human resources information system notwithstanding that the error was due to a glitch caused by its source code. The High Court also found that the publication of the erroneous information on the human resources information system via its intranet amounts to publication.

The High Court however dismissed the Plaintiff’s action for tort of misuse of private information as the erroneous information is not private information and there was no misuse of information.

Meanwhile, in Lye Eng Eng & Anor v Ho Kee Jin (Kuala Lumpur High Court Civil Appeal No: WA-12BNCVC-174-11/2016), the High Court, on an appeal from the Sessions Court by the Plaintiff, increased the damages awarded to RM35,000 for defaming the 1st Plaintiff by sending an email containing defamatory statements to 23 persons including those who mattered most to him, namely, his children, his friends and business associates. The Court also held that the Sessions Court Judge had failed to take into consideration of the “gravity of the libel”.

Part 3: In the final part we look at a few cases where individuals ran foul of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and some cases under the Computer Crimes Act.


First published on Digital News Asia on 29 March 2018

Bread & Kaya: Are WhatsApp admins going to jail?

Bread & Kaya: Are WhatsApp admins going to jail?

By Foong Cheng Leong | May 02, 2017

– Two key elements in s. 233 are not fulfilled by a group chat admin
– To use s. 114A to attach liability on a group chat admin is stretching s. it too far

I REFER to the recent news reports stating that the Honourable Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Jailani Johari announced that group chat admins can be held accountable under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) if they fail to stop the spread of false news to its members.

With due respect to the Honourable Deputy Ministry, the CMA, in particular s. 233 of the CMA, does not attach any liability to an admin of a group chat admin for spreading “false news”.

For ease of reference, I reproduce s. 233 of the Act:-

233 Improper use of network facilities or network service, etc

(1) A person who-

(a) by means of any network facilities or network service or applications service knowingly-

(ii) initiates the transmission of,

any comment, request, suggestion or other communication which is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person; or

(b) initiates a communication using any applications service, whether continuously, repeatedly or otherwise, during which communication may or may not ensue, with or without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person at any number or electronic address,

commits an offence.

(2) A person who knowingly-

(a) by means of a network service or applications service provides any obscene communication for commercial purposes to any person; or

(b) permits a network service or applications service under the person’s control to be used for an activity described in paragraph (a),

commits an offence.

(3) A person who commits an offence under this section shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both and shall also be liable to a further fine of one thousand ringgit for every day during which the offence is continued after conviction.

The offence under s. 233(1) of the CMA is committed by a person who uses any network facilities or network service or applications service knowingly makes, creates or solicits and initiates the transmission of an offensive communication with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person. Two key elements in s. 233 are not fulfilled by a group chat admin namely “knowingly make or initiates the offensive communication” and “with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass another person”.

As for s. 233(2), liability is only attached to a person who knowingly provide or permits an applications service to provide any obscene communication for commercial purposes. This is also not applicable to the present case.

It is noted that s. 114A of the Evidence Act 1950 provides for three circumstances where an Internet user is deemed to be a publisher of a content unless proven otherwise by him or her. The relevant section, namely s. 114A(1), states that “A person whose name, photograph or pseudonym appears on any publication depicting himself as the owner, host , administrator, editor or sub-editor, or who in any manner facilitates to publish or re-publish the publication is presumed to have published or re-published the contents of the publication unless the contrary is proved”.

In simple words, if your name, photograph or pseudonym appears on any publication depicting yourself as the aforesaid persons, you are deemed to have published the content.

To use s. 114A to attach liability on a group chat admin is stretching s. 114A too far. It must be highlighted that s. 114A was introduced to “provide for the presumption of fact in publication in order to facilitate the identification and proving of the identity of an anonymous person involved in publication through the internet” (Explanatory Statement of Evidence (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2012). Common sense would dictate that a group chat admin is not a publisher of their member’s messages.

In fact, in the Delhi High Court case of Ashish Bhalla vs Suresh Chawdhury & Ors, the Court held that:-

Similarly, I am unable to understand as to how the Administrator of a Group can be held liable for defamation even if any, by the statements made by a member of the Group. To make an Administrator of an online platform liable for defamation would be like making the manufacturer of the newsprint on which defamatory statements are published liable for defamation. When an online platform is created, the creator thereof cannot expect any of the members thereof to indulge in defamation and defamatory statements made by any member of the group cannot make the Administrator liable therefor. It is not as if without the Administrator‟s approval of each of the statements, the statements cannot be posted by any of the members of the Group on the said platform

Perhaps the Honourable Deputy Minister should clarify which section in the CMA attaches liability to a group chat admin to avoid further confusion and panic to group chat admins.


First published on Digital News Asia on 2 May 2017.

Bread & Kaya: Cyberbullying, stalking and sexual harassment

Bread & Kaya: Cyberbullying, stalking and sexual harassment
By Foong Cheng Leong | Jun 28, 2016

– Current laws narrowly and vaguely defines harassment
– It is high time Malaysia legislates against it

In Mohd Ridzwan bin Abdul Razak v Asmah Binti HJ. Mohd Nor (Kuala Lumpur Civil Suit No. 23NCVC-102-12/2011), the Defendant alleged that the Plaintiff had sexually harassed her at their workplace.

The Defendant alleged that numerous vulgar and harassing words were uttered to her and they included the following:

– kalau nak cari jodoh cari yang beriman, solat, you kena solat istikarah .. . bila you solat istikarah, you akan mimpi you berjimak dengan orang tu! (If you’re looking for a partner, look for someone pious. You will need to pray. When you pray, you will dream of having sex with that person!)
– you ni asyik sakit kepala saja, you ni kena kahwin tau … you nak laki orang tak? (You’re always having a headache. You need to get married, you want someone’s husband?)
– you nak jadi wife I tak? I banyak duit tau. (You want to be my wife? I have a lot of money).

The Defendant filed a complaint against the Plaintiff to the company and a committee of inquiry was set up to investigate the complaint.

The committee found that there was insufficient evidence to warrant disciplinary action to be taken against the Plaintiff, but a strong administrative reprimand was given.

Aggrieved, the Plaintiff sued the Defendant for defamation and the Defendant counterclaimed for tort of sexual harassment.

The High Court dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim and allowed the Defendant’s counterclaim. She was awarded with RM100,000 in general damages and RM20,000 in aggravated and exemplary damages.

The Plaintiff appealed against the judgment to the Court of Appeal (Court of Appeal Civil Appeal No. W-02(NCVC)(W)-2524-10-2012).

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal and held that what the Plaintiff did amounts to the tort of intentionally causing nervous shock.

The Court of Appeal however fell short of declaring that there is tort of harassment in Malaysia.

Dissatisfied again, the Plaintiff filed an appeal with the Federal Court. Unfortunately for the Plaintiff again, the Federal Court (Federal Court Civil Appeal No 01(f)-13-06/2013 (W)) dismissed the appeal.

The Federal Court added:

[39] After mulling over the matter, we arrived at a decision to undertake some judicial activism exercise and decide that it is timely to import the tort of harassment into our legal and judicial system, with sexual harassment being part of it.

The introduction of the tort of harassment is a significant improvement to our laws. Victims of harassment and cyberbullying now have an easier avenue to obtain redress from our Courts.

In my earlier article Bread & Kaya: Cyberstalking, harassment … and road rage, published in July 2014, I said that we do not have specific laws to govern harassment, and hence it is difficult to determine whether an act amounts to harassment without a legal definition.

Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 criminalises certain forms of harassment, but it must be an electronic communication which is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character.

But as we can see, harassment comes in all sorts of forms.

Furthermore, there had have been complaints that industry regulator the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is selective in prosecuting cases. Not all complaints are acted upon.

Before the Federal Court decision, it was tougher to seek legal redress as there were no reported case laws holding that there is tort of harassment in Malaysia. When the Court of Appeal delivered the decision of Ridzwan, it equated an action for tort of harassment as tort of intentionally inflicting nervous shock.

Such equation is significant because the threshold to succeed in an action for nervous shock is high. A victim needs to prove that he or she suffered some form of psychiatric illness or injury. Normally, this would need to be proven by a doctor, and a victim may not see a doctor immediately.

Further, a victim of harassment does not necessarily suffer such a medical condition. Harassment normally causes distress, annoyance, humiliation or annoyance.

In Malcomson Nicholas Hugh Bertram v Mehta Naresh Kumar (2001] 3 SLR 379, the Singapore High Court defined harassment as the following:

For the purposes of this application I shall take the term harassment to mean a course of conduct by a person, whether by words or action, directly or through third parties, sufficiently repetitive in nature as would cause, and which he ought reasonably to know would cause, worry, emotional distress or annoyance to another person.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive definition of the term but rather one that sufficiently encompasses the facts of the present case in order to proceed with a consideration of the law.

It would be interesting to see how far the tort of harassment could help victims of stalking, harassment and cyberbullying.

The common form of online harassment and cyberbullying nowadays is to set a mob of netizens against a person, or what is known as cyber-lynching.

Many have become victims of such cyber-lynching, and they may not have a legal redress as the attacks are not done by a single person – they could be shared by thousands of people and acted upon by numerous vigilante netizens independently.

Victims would have a hard time finding the perpetrators, and the legal costs would be prohibitive.

It is high time for Malaysia to legislate against harassment.


First published on Digital News Asia on 28 June 2016.

Bread & Kaya: How the ‘new’ Sedition Act affects netizens

Bread & Kaya: How the ‘new’ Sedition Act affects netizens
By Foong Cheng Leong
Apr 08, 2015

– As with Section 114A, website hosts and FB page owners can be held liable
– Particularly thorny are comments left by others on your portal

BY the time you read this article, the Sedition (Amendment) Bill 2015 – which seeks to amend the Sedition Act 1948 – will be debated in Parliament. The Bill is now published on the Parliament of Malaysia’s website. Click here to download a copy.

The Najib Administration is seeking to update the 1948 Act to now cover electronic publications, and this article will focus on how these amendments may affect the netizens of Malaysia, and website operators in particular.

The purpose of introducing the amendments is stated in the Explanatory Statement of the Bill.

On the eve of Malaysia Day 2011, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged watershed changes to enhance the parliamentary democracy system in Malaysia. This pledge was reiterated in July 2012 and a decision was made to repeal the Sedition Act 1948.

“However, events since that date have demonstrated the continued relevance of the Sedition Act 1948 in tandem with recognition for the need for enhanced safeguards against its misuse to stem legitimate criticism of Government and discussion of issues of concern to Malaysians,” the explanatory statement reads.

“Among the issues of concern are the increasingly harmful and malicious comments, postings and publications that jeopardise that most valued ideals of Malaysia – tolerance and racial and religious harmony in a multiracial, multireligious and multicultural nation.

“Even more alarming are calls for the secession of States in the Federation of Malaysia established by the consensus of the peoples of Malaysia and unwarranted attacks against the sovereign institutions of Malaysia, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Rulers of the States.

“It is against this background that the Government has decided to retain the Sedition Act 1948 (‘Act 15’) at this time with the addition of enhanced measures and penalties to deal with the threats against peace, public order and the security of Malaysia, in particular through the irresponsible misuse of social media platforms and other communication devices to spread divisiveness and to insult the race, religion, culture, etc. of particular groups of Malaysians without regard for the consequences,” it says.

The definition of seditious tendency will be amended. It will no longer be seditious to “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Government, administration of Justice (our Courts).

It will be seditious to excite the secession of a State from Malaysia. It is seditious to insult our Rulers, and to promote feelings of ill will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia and, with the new amendments, between persons or groups of persons on the grounds of religion.

The Sedition (Amendment) Bill 2015 creates liability to website operators (I use this term loosely as the Bill uses the words ‘any person’ and thus may include owner, host, editor and subeditor) such as online forums, online news portals, and even Facebook Page/ Group owners.

Sections 3 and 4 of the Bill introduce the words “caused to be published.” Under the newly amended Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948, a person who, among others, publishes or caused to be published any seditious publication is guilty of an offence.

The punishment is now “a term not less than three years but not exceeding seven years.” Previously, it was not exceeding three years and a fine.

So what does “caused to be published” here mean? It seems to cover a website operator who allows a comment to be published on his website (especially in the case where comments are moderated). This also covers a comment or a posting published on a Facebook page.

Further, pursuant to Section 114A of the Evidence Act 1950, the owner, host, administrator, editor or a subeditor of the website is the publisher of that comment – notwithstanding that such person is not the author of such a comment (unless the contrary is proven).

If the offence involves a publication of a seditious comment under the new Section 4(1A) – that is, published or ‘caused to be published’ any seditious comments which caused bodily injury or damage to property – the Public Prosecutor has a right not to allow bail. Such a person will languish in jail until his trial is over.

Further, the new Section 10(5) of the Sedition Act 1948 compels a person who knowingly has in his possession, power or control a prohibited publication by electronic means, shall remove or cause to be removed, such publication – failing which he shall be liable to a fine not exceeding RM500,000 (US$137,000) or imprisonment not exceeding three years, or both.

However, there are exceptions for a website operator if he can prove that the seditious publication was done:

– Without his authority, consent and knowledge and without any want of due care or caution on his part, or
– That he did not know and had no reasonable grounds to believe that the publication had a seditious tendency.

The first exception will not be applicable to a website operator who moderates comments because publication of a comment was done by his authority, consent and knowledge when he approved the comment.

It would however be applicable to an unmoderated website but such an operator must show that due care and caution had been taken.

Nevertheless, the second exception above will be of assistance to a website operator who moderates comments. However, it is difficult to determine what amounts to seditious nowadays (we need a compendium of sedition statements!).

A Sessions Court Judge, on the application by the Public Prosecutor, can make an order to prohibit the making or circulation of certain sedition publications (that are likely to lead to bodily injury, damage to property, promote feelings of ill will, etc., as per the new Section 10(1)).

Any person making or circulating the prohibited publication shall remove or caused to be removed that publication, or be prohibited from accessing any electronic device.

Any person who fails to do so shall be guilty to a fine not exceeding RM500,000 or to imprisonment not exceeding three years, or both.

If the person making or circulating the seditious publication by electronic means cannot be identified, a Sessions Court Judge can direct that such publication be blocked (under the new Section 10A).

[Note: This article is subject to amendments in the event that there are new facts or clarifications from the First Meeting of the Third Session of the 13th Parliament (2015)].



First published on Digital News Asia on 8 April 2015.

Bread & Kaya: Tracing someone online

Bread & Kaya: Tracing someone online
Nov 17, 2014

– Getting the IP address is one way, but may not always be possible
– On issue of defamation, Section 114A has been applied retrospectively

ONE of the most difficult issues to deal with in cybercrime or cyber-bullying cases is finding the perpetrator online. My years of blogging have brought me some experience in dealing with this issue, especially when dealing with ‘trolls.’

I am glad to say that it is not impossible. Some guesswork is needed. Normally, such a perpetrator is someone you know, although he or she may or may not be close to you. Sometimes, however, it would be just a stranger.

There was one case where the perpetrator was found to be a friend’s spouse whom the victim had only met a few times. Strangely, there was no animosity between these parties.

In one case which I was personally involved, I made a guess on the possible perpetrator and worked from there. Eventually, the person confessed after being confronted.

Getting the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the perpetrator is one of the conventional ways to track someone down. Internet service providers (ISPs) assign unique IP address to each user account. However, IP addresses may not be retrievable if the person is on a proxy server.

Another problem is the jurisdictional issue. Many servers storing such IP addresses may be located overseas and owned by foreign entities. One may have to initiate legal action overseas to get such data, and many of these service providers do not release their user information easily due to data protection laws or their strict privacy practices.

In the recent case of Tong Seak Kan & Anor v Loke Ah Kin & Anor [2014] 6 CLJ 904, the Plaintiffs initiated an action for cyberspace defamation against the 1st Defendant.

In tracing the perpetrator, who had posted defamatory statements on two Google Blogspot websites, the Plaintiffs filed an action called a John Doe action in the Superior Court of California. In compliance with the Court order, Google traced the blogs to two IP addresses which were revealed by Telekom Malaysia Bhd to be IP addresses belonging to the 1st Defendant’s account.

In the same case, the High Court had held that the controversial Section 114A (2) of the Evidence Act 1950 applied retrospectively.

S. 114A (2) provides that the burden of proof lies on the subscriber of an ISP to prove that a certain statement was not published by him or her. The 1st Defendant failed to convince the Court that s. 114A (2) does not apply because the defamatory statements were published before the enforcement date of s. 114A(2).

This retrospective stand however was not followed in the case of PP v Rutinin Bin Suhaimin [2013] 2 CLJ 427 as the High Court held that s. 114A does not apply retrospectively.

Perhaps the distinguishing factor between these cases is that the first case involved a civil dispute whereas the latter is a criminal prosecution.

Readers may recall that the #Stop114A campaign was initiated to get this law repealed. I am proud to say that Digital News Asia (DNA) was one of the organisers and participants in shutting down its website for one day. The campaign attracted the attention of Prime Minister Najib Razak but unfortunately, the law remained.

Going back to the case, the Court held that the 1st Defendant had failed to prove that he was not the publisher of the content. The 1st Defendant is now liable for a payment of RM600,000 (US$180,000) as damages to the Plaintiffs.

Not all tracing of a perpetrator requires an IP address. In Datuk Seri Anwar Bin Ibrahim v Wan Muhammad Azri Bin Wan Deris [2014] 3 MLRH 21, Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (pic) sued Wan Muhammad Azri Bin Wan Deris, allegedly a well-known blogger called Papagomo, for defamation.

In proving the identity of Papagomo, instead of tracing the IP address of Papagomo, the Court relied on the statement of a person who had met Papagomo in person before. The former also took a picture with Papagomo and this picture was tendered in Court.

There are other unconventional methods to identify a person online. I have heard of a private investigator entering a person’s home without knowledge to gain access to the computer of that person.

Many people do not password-protect their home computers and leave their email and other online accounts still logged into. This allows the private investigator to easily access a person’s emails and other online accounts without any technical skills.

One method that I always use is to find something unique in the content posted by the perpetrator. For example, I recently concluded that a website was held by a cyber-squatter by doing a Google search on certain sentences that appeared on the website. The cyber-squatter’s website looked like a legitimate website, but the search revealed that the same facade had been employed by the cyber-squatter on several websites using well-known brand names.

If there are images involved, a Google Image search would be useful to find whether other websites are hosting the same image.

It is of utmost importance that one must have reliable evidence to prove the identity of a perpetrator before suing or charging them. The person doing such investigation should be knowledgeable enough to conduct the investigation, know the rules of producing evidence and testifying in Court, and to thwart all challenges by the perpetrator’s lawyers.

Failure to do so would result in the case being dismissed or in a worst scenario, an innocent person being charged or sued in Court.


First published on Digital News Asia on 17 November 2014.

Bread & Kaya: Liking a Facebook page and the law

Bread & Kaya: Liking a Facebook page and the law

Foong Cheng Leong
Aug 14, 2014

– ‘Liking’ a page doesn’t necessary mean you agree with it
– Using Sedition Act for what you ‘Like’ sets dangerous precedent

THE recent report that Malaysian police are investigating a Penang teenager under the Sedition Act 1948 for liking the ‘I love Israel’ Facebook page has raised more than a few eyebrows.

This leads to some interesting questions: What does liking a Facebook page mean? Does it mean liking the idea that is expressed by the Facebook page? In the above case, does this mean that the teenager actually loves Israel?

To answer this, we first refer to Facebook’s definition of ‘Like.

What’s the difference between liking a Page and liking a post from a friend?

Liking a Page means you’re connecting to that Page. Liking a post from a friend means you’re letting that friend know you like their post without leaving a comment.

When you connect to a Page, you’ll start to see stories from that Page in your News Feed. The Page will also appear on your profile, and you’ll appear on the Page as a person who likes that Page.

Further, in the US case of Bland v. Roberts, No. 12-1671 (4th Cir. Sept. 18, 2013, click here for the PDF), the Court held that:

On the most basic level, clicking on the ‘Like’ button literally causes to be published the statement that the User ‘Likes’ something, which is itself a substantive statement. In the context of a political campaign’s Facebook page, the meaning that the user approves of the candidacy whose page is being liked is unmistakable. That a user may use a single mouse click to produce that message that he Likes the page instead of typing the same message with several individual key strokes is of no constitutional significance.

This is a US case thus it is not applicable to us, and Facebook’s definition may not be relevant here. So far, we have no reported case in Malaysia of the legal implications of Liking a Facebook page.

To me, when a person Likes a certain page, it doesn’t necessary mean he or she ‘likes’ what the page represents. I may ‘Like’ a page to ‘get the stories from that Page in my News Feed.’ I sometimes Like a page to support a friend who started such page, but that does not mean I like his postings or expressions there. I’m sure many of us here use the Facebook ‘Like’ button differently.

To charge the teenager for sedition for Liking the ‘I Love Israel’ Facebook page is a dangerous precedent. Each Facebook user would have to be very careful on the Facebook page they Like. Those who are oblivious to current affairs would be most vulnerable.

Furthermore, the name of a Facebook page can be changed. Imagine if someone changes a Facebook page in open support of child pornography, and those who had previously Liked the page seem to suddenly like child pornography!

(Note: No approval is required to change the name of a Facebook Page with fewer than 200 members).


First published on Digital News Asia on 14 August 2014

Unknown Caribbean company files for MH17 trademark

I was quoted by Digital News Asia in their article “Unknown Caribbean company files for MH17 trademark” published on 22 July 2014.



Unknown Caribbean company files for MH17 trademark
Gabey Goh
Jul 22, 2014

– Trademark applications filed for ‘MH17’ & ‘MH370’ for use in EU
– Case of companies or individuals using trademark register to take advantage of a tragedy

IN THE wake of the MH17 tragedy, reports have already surfaced about cybercriminals taking advantage with fake Facebook pages being created in the name of victims, for money.

Now it appears opportunism has reared its ugly head in another way – Digital News Asia (DNA) has learnt that claims have been filed to trademark the terms ‘MH17’ and ‘MH370.’

MH370 was the number of the Malaysian Airlines flight that inexplicably disappeared on March 8, remaining one of the aviation industry’s greatest mysteries. The Beijing-bound flight from Kuala Lumpur was carrying 12 crew members and 227 passengers, the majority of whom were China nationals. The search and rescue operation has yet to find remains of the craft.

Malaysia’s national carrier, already reeling from that disaster and a disappointing financial year, then experienced another disaster when Flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over Ukrainian airspace on July 17, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.

Details of the ‘MH17’ filing, submitted on July 17 itself, were found on the European Trade Mark and Design Network website and the application under examination. The ‘MH370’ filing submitted on May 2 was found on the Justia Trademarks site, and according to the site, has yet to be assigned a case examiner.

According to available details, the same company, Seyefull Investments Limited which is incorporated in Belize City, filed both applications.

Belize City is the largest city in the Central American country of Belize and was once the capital of the former British Honduras. It is located at the mouth of the Belize River on the coast of the Caribbean.

The scope of usages listed within both applications is wide ranging: From conferences, exhibitions and competitions; to education and instruction, and entertainment services (namely, the provision of continuing programmes, segments, movies, and shows delivered by television, radio, satellite and the Internet).

DNA columnist and intellectual property lawyer Foong Cheng Leong (pic) noted that trademark rights are limited to the goods and services chosen by the proprietor.

“Here, the applicant is registering the mark MH17 for all sorts of products in the European Union. By being the registered proprietor, they have the rights over the mark [when it comes to] the registered goods and services in the European Union.

“They may stop people from using the mark or ask for payment in the European Union,” he added.

Asked whether these trademark claims were the groundwork for potential ‘trademark trolling’ efforts, Foong said that he would not be able to determine whether they are trademark trolls without a deep investigation into the entity in question.

‘Trademark troll’ is a pejorative term for any entity that attempts to register a trademark without intending to use it, and who then threatens to sue others who use that mark.

It is a different beast from a ‘patent troll,’ also called a patent assertion entity (PAE), a person or company who enforces patent rights against accused infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees, but does not manufacture products or supply services based upon the patents in question, thus engaging in ‘economic rent-seeking.’

Claiming a stake in crisis

This is not the first time an attempt has been made to claim the intellectual property associated with a global event. Among the most notable was when a businessman named Moti Shniberg tried to trademark the term ‘September 11, 2001’ … on the day itself.

Shniberg said he had filed for the trademark for “charitable purposes,” but the US Patent and Trademark Office ultimately rejected the application. It was one of about two dozen reportedly filed trademarks related to the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Lawyers and trademark industry watchers DNA spoke to for this article noted that it is quite common for people to file trademarks based on words related to current affairs.

A trademark industry observer, who asked not to be named, said that such filings are “fairly common, but also fairly pointless” because they usually get rejected and lead to bad public relations for the people or company which filed the trademark, as well as for the trademark industry as a whole.

He said that the case in question was “another sign of companies or individuals taking advantage of tragedies using the trademark register.”

“I don’t know the reason for these, it’s probably opportunistic from what I can tell – the fact the MH17 one was filed on Thursday definitely suggests that.

“My guess would be it’s a shell company of some kind. The company’s other trademark is for ‘Mata Hara 308‘, which appears to be linked to this website which mentions MH370, and has the same image for its browser tab as the Seyefull website, so I think they’re linked.” he added.

Asked whether Malaysia Airlines (MAS) should be concerned about such moves, he pointed to another filing made by Aoan International Pty Ltd to register an Australian trademark for ‘MH370’ in March that is due to be accepted on July 30.

“However, it seems that Malaysia Airlines is concerned about this kind of thing because 10 days ago, [Malaysia Airlines] itself registered a trademark in Australia for ‘MH370′,” he said.

Additional checks also found that MAS had filed its own Community Trade Mark application for ‘MH17.’ However, this was made on July 21, a few days after the application made by Seyefull.

“I do not know why [Malaysia Airlines] filed, but it may have been alerted by the company’s application or is trying to block others from registering the mark,” said Foong.

A corporate lawyer who also declined to be named for this article said that to her knowledge, there are corporates and individuals “who more often than not, seize the opportunity to register certain names when they sense the potential in future commercial exploitation.”

“Apart from applications for registration of a trademark, another area is the registration of domain names. The name ‘everyone can fly’ and ‘airasia’ have been rampantly applied by different individuals from all over the world,” she said.

She noted that at first glance, the most obvious reason why one would want to register ‘MH370’ and ‘MH17’ now is probably due to the potential of these events being made into movies or books.

“However, one should also question whether they infringe the rights owned by MAS in applying to register such a mark in the first place.

“Usually, the Registrar would not allow registration should it feel that this infringes the existing rights of another party. MAS still retains the common law proprietary rights in the mark,” she added.

Bread & Kaya: Cyberstalking, harassment … and road rage

Bread & Kaya: Cyberstalking, harassment … and road rage
Foong Cheng Leong
Jul 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.

For example:

– 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. He commenced legal action against his Malaysian ex-girlfriend (Lee David Clayworth v Lee Ching Yan (Kuala Lumpur High Court (Civil Division) Suit No. 23NCVC-31-2011)) and obtained judgment against her. She was later found to be in contempt of Court as she failed to comply with the Court order.

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.

It is noted that s. 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 criminalises harasses but such harassment must be in a form of electronic harassment which is obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive in character.

Our Parliament should introduce a new law to criminalise stalking and harassment. Singapore recently introduced the Protection from Harassment Bill 2014. 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.


First published on Digital News Asia on 17 July 2014.

[Edited on 7 July 2019 to include the Court order of Lee David Clayworth v Lee Ching Yan]

Bread & Kaya: A look at Malaysian cyberlaw cases

Bread & Kaya: A look at Malaysian cyberlaw cases

Foong Cheng Leong
Feb 17, 2014

– A summary of the plethora of Malaysian cases involving the online world in 2013
– The Government still needs to look at legislation to address many other issues

Bread & Kaya by Foong Cheng Leong

I HAVE been summarising some interesting cases related to online disputes from around the world every year since 2011.

For a summary of 2010 cases, click here; for 2011 cases click here; and for 2012 cases, click here.

Compiling legal cases is a hobby of mine. I recently published a compilation of Malaysian trademark cases under the title Compendium of Intellectual Property Cases – Trade Marks. This book consists of 70 reported and unreported Malaysian trademark cases.

The year 2013 was one packed with an unprecedented number of legal cases concerning the Malaysian Internet sphere so much so that I have enough cases for one full article!

Facebook and Twitter

Facebook and Twitter related lawsuits have flooded the Malaysian Courts.

In National Union of Bank Employees v Noorzeela Binti Lamin (Kuala Lumpur High Court Suit No. S-23-NCVC-14-2011), the plaintiff initiated an action against the defendant for posting alleged defamatory comments on her Facebook page.

The defendant denied making such comments on Facebook, and claimed that his sister operated the Facebook account, also testifying that “maybe someone hack[ed] my Facebook [account].”

The defendant further contended that the plaintiff had failed to take any steps to check the details of the owner of the Facebook account or the Internet address with the Facebook administrator to confirm that the account belonged to the first defendant.

Notwithstanding this evidence, the defendant admitted in her Statement of Defence that she had published the comments. As a result, the court held that she was bound by her pleadings and therefore could not dispute that she did not post the comments.

In Dato Seri Mohammad Nizar Bin Jamaluddin v Sistem Televisyen Malaysia & Anor (Kuala Lumpur High Court Suit No: 23 NCvC-84-07/2012) , the plaintiff, a well-known politician, filed an action against the defendants for defaming him through the first defendant’s television news report of materials regarding the plaintiff’s tweets on his Twitter account.

The plaintiff alleged that the news report wrongly accused him of making the allegation that the Sultan of Johor had used public funds to bid for car plate number WWW1.

The High Court held that the plaintiff’s tweets, read and understood by any reasonable man, clearly insinuated that the Sultan of Johor had used public funds for the WWW1 bid. Thus, the court held that the defendants succeeded in their defence based on justification.

However, the court held that the defendants did not practise responsible journalism because they failed to verify the truth of his tweet messages with the plaintiff, or to obtain his comments on the matter.

It said the defendants’ publication was lop-sided, leaning towards giving a negative impression about the plaintiff, even before the police completed their investigations. The court also stated that there should be freedom on the part of the plaintiff to tweet his personal messages on his own Twitter account for as long as the laws on defamation and sedition, and other laws of the land, were not breached.

Mohammad Nizar also initiated legal action against Malay-language daily Utusan Malaysia for allegedly misreporting his tweets (see Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin lwn. Utusan Melayu (M) Berhad [2013] 1 LNS 592). He succeeded and was granted, among others, damages of RM250,000.

The learned High Court Judge also commented that Utusan Malaysia did not practice responsible journalism.

In Salleh Berindi Bin Hj Othman v Ruslili Nurzahara Hassan (Kota Kinabalu High Court Suit No. BKI-23-1/6-2012), Salleh, a schoolteacher, sued his colleague for damages of RM1 million for publishing three photographs of him on his colleague’s Facebook page. The photographs showed Salleh sleeping on a sofa in the teacher’s room.

Similarly, Salleh also sued his other colleagues for the sum of RM10 million for posting several entries and comments on their Facebook pages (Salleh Berindi Bin Hj Othman v Abdul Hamid Ahmad & 4 Others (Kota Kinabalu High Court Suit No. K-22-134-2011)).

Salleh failed in both suits.

In Nor Hayati Binti Ali v Wan Nuredayu Binti Wan Shaharuddin & Ors (Kuantan Sessions Court Civil Suit No. 53-218-2012), the Kuantan Sessions Court granted a modest sum of RM20,000 against the first defendant for defaming the plaintiff on Facebook.

The use of Facebook pages as evidence in court is becoming the norm these days. However, such evidence is not always acceptable.

In Tan Swee Ean v Adrian Tan Soon Beng & Anor (Penang High Court Divorce Petition No. 33-295-201), the High Court rejected a wife’s allegation that his husband had committed adultery based on pictures downloaded from a Facebook account belonging to the wife’s friend. The Court held that such pictures are hearsay.

Sex bloggers ‘Alvivi’ (Alvin Tan Jye Yee and Vivian Lee May Ling) were charged under Subsection 4 (1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948, Penal Code, and Subsection 5(1) of the Film Censorship Act 2002 for displaying pornographic pictures on their blog and posting their controversial ‘Bah Kut Teh’ picture on their Facebook page, which allegedly insulted Muslims during the holy month of Ramadhan.

Blogs

In 2011, Sri Muda state assemblyman Mat Shuhaimi Shafiei was charged with sedition over a blog post which allegedly insulted the royal institution. He challenge the constitutionality of S. 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948 but failed in the Court of Appeal as reported in Mat Shuhaimi bin Shafiei v Pendakwa Raya.

His appeal to the Federal Court is now pending.

Pro-Umno blogger ‘Papa Gomo’ was also ordered to pay a businessman RM500,000 in damages over a defamation suit.

Forums

Notwithstanding the introduction of Section 114A (which makes website operators liable for their users’ posts), there were not many lawsuits taken against forum owners.

However, in Gloco Malaysia Sdn Bhd v Lam Ming Yuet (Shah Alam High Court Suit No. 22NCVC-1284-10/2012), the plaintiff sued its former employee for posting her experience working with the plaintiff on the popular forum LowYat.net.

The High Court dismissed the plaintiff’s action on, among others, the grounds that such postings were not defamatory.

The Enforcement Division of the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism, with the help of other authorities, arrested the operator of JIWANG.org for hosting links to music, television shows and movie files via the website JIWANG.org.

Interestingly, one can be arrested for hosting links instead of hosting the content itself!

Wikipedia

In the past, the Malaysian courts have referred to Wikipedia articles as evidence or guidance.

However, in Ganga Gouri ap Raja Sundram Mohd Faizal Bin Mat Taib (Kuala Lumpur Civil Suit No. 21 NCvC-168-07/2012), the High Court rejected evidence from a Wikipedia page used to rebut an expert’s testimonial.

The Court highlighted that Wikipedia has a legal disclaimer stating that “Wikipedia does not give legal opinions. There is absolutely no assurance that any statement contained in an article touching on legal matters is true, correct or precise.”

In Mycron Steel Berhad v Multi Resources Holdings Sdn Bhd (High Court Suit No: KCH-22-80-2011), the High Court declined to take judicial notice of an economic downturn based on an extract from Wikipedia on a write-up titled Subprime Mortgage Crisis because it was not evidence adduced at the trial or an authored publication on the subject.

However, in Lee Lai Ching v Lim Hooi Teik [2013] 1 LNS 18, the learned High Court Judge downloaded a Wikipedia page relating legal issues on parental testing in other jurisdictions.

Closing

Although Malaysia had a plethora of cyberlaw cases flooding its courts in 2013, we can see that there are many issues that our laws have not specifically dealt with. Our Government has yet to come out with legislation or regulations to deal with issues such as:

1) Instigating netizens or setting an online mob against a person with intent to hurt that person through bodily harm or damage to reputation. We have seen many cases where Facebook pages or blogs were set up to set upon angry netizens against a person.

2) Cyberstalking and publication of images of young girls on a blog without their consent (although I would argue Copyright Act 1987 applies). See my previous Digital News Asia (DNA) article here.

3) Disseminating gruesome images of victims. See my previous DNA article here.

4) A law to absolve electronic platform providers (e.g. forums) from liability when a user makes an unlawful posting. The United Kingdom has introduced the Defamation Act 2014 to protect operators of websites.

5) Guidelines for Internet service providers (ISPs) to follow before a website can be blocked from access by the general public. Instead of allowing the Government or ISPs to arbitrary block websites without notifying the public, there should be a rule to make any decision to block a website published in the Government Gazette and any party may challenge such a decision unless there are good reasons to exempt such publication (e.g. for national security reasons). The arcane Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 has similar provisions and I don’t see why we can’t have the same thing for blocked websites!


First published on Digital News Asia on 17 February 2014.

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