Lifestyle

11 Must-Know Things About The Fake News Act & Why It's A Big Deal For M'sians

  • Under the Anti-Fake News Act, those who unknowingly spread fake news are not considered guilty. 
  • However, sharing fake news on social media can net you punishment under the court, even if you didn’t create the post. 
  • Those guilty can be charged up to RM500,000 or no more than 10 years imprisonment, or both.

The Anti-Fake News Act is being tabled in parliament as we speak, and this could be huge for us how Malaysia has been interacting with the internet.

In these politically charged climates, critics worry that this could lead to internet users being incarcerated or punished for voicing their opinions online.

Those found guilty could be charged up to RM500,000 or no more than 10 years imprisonment.

This link contains the full, tabled bill in its entirety. While elements of the bill might change once the bill has been debated, here are some relevant information we pulled out from the current bill.

“As the technology advances with time, the dissemination of fake news becomes a global concern and more serious that it affects the public,” according to the bill.

“The proposed Act seeks to safeguard the public against the proliferation of fake news whilst ensuring the right to freedom of speech and expression under the Federal Constitution is respected.”

Who can be charged under this bill?

An example of fake news that was spread about the upcoming GE14 / Image Credit: Mothership.sg

Creators of fake news will obviously be subject to punishment, but the Act will also affect those who knowingly circulates or disseminates the news, whether it’s a Facebook post or a published print article.

The bill considers the information presented in visuals, features, and even audio recordings under the Anti-Fake News Act, as long as it’s capable of suggesting words and ideas.

In the situations that were highlighted by the bill as an example, here’s what we figured out:

1. If someone shares fake news without knowing that it’s fake, then they’re not guilty.

2. If someone shares a fake news article on social media knowing that it’s fake—even if they didn’t produce the article—then they can be found guilty.

3. Caricatures depicting fake news can also be subject to the new Act. Do take this with a grain of salt as in the example provided, the situation specifically highlights that the caricature was a published advertisement.

4. Sharing outdated information as if it’s an ongoing issue can get you a guilty charge as well. In the example highlighted, someone can be found guilty of sharing news about how a businessman knowingly selling food with harmful ingredients, even if production has been discontinued long ago.

5. Creating websites impersonating a government agency could also land you a guilty verdict under the act.

6. A speech during a public forum containing false information falls under the verdict of Anti-Fake News Act as well.

7. If you speak on behalf of another party claiming something that isn’t true, then it falls under fake news as well. In the example provided, someone can be charged with fake news if they hold a press conference spreading false information about a business giving out free gifts, knowing that the business has no intention of doing so.

On top of that, the act also highlights:

8. No matter your nationality of citizenship, you can still be charged under the Anti-Fake News Act as long as the news affects Malaysia, or a Malaysian citizen.

9. You can also be charged if you provide financial aid to help create or spread fake news—but only if you knowingly do so, or have a good reason to suspect that your funds will go into fake news.

So you’ve been charged. What happens next?

As mentioned, those guilty can be charged up to RM500,000 or no more than 10 years imprisonment, or both.

10. Furthermore, if publications fail to remove fake news once they find out the truth, then they can be fined for RM100,000.

11. If you continue to share the fake news after the first punishment, you might get slapped with a further fine of no more than RM3,000 each day the offense continues.

The court can also order you to:

1. Issue an apology to the affected parties.

2. Order the removal of the publication depicting fake news. They can even tell you how to remove the fake news, and the time frame you have to do it.

These are just among other orders that they may see fit. Failure to comply may lead the user liable to a fine of no more than RM100,000.

*We will update this article with the finalised version of the bill if it is passed. 

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It is certainly interesting that Malaysia tabled a similar bill first, when the term “fake news” was popularised from the sitting USA president, Donald Trump.

But considering the debacle with Cambridge Analytica and how fake news was used to sway political opinion, we can certainly see the value of this type of act.

If it passes, what is crucial is the fair enforcement of this act regardless of the perpetrator’s status, political affiliations, or personal connections.

  • You can check out the full bill for yourself here.

Feature Image Credit: Screenshot from this video by KLXpress

 

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