KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has the capacity to prosecute individuals who spread false news within 24 hours after an offence is committed via social media.
Action will be taken immediately if MCMC receives complaints about offenses under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, including sharing and spreading false news.
MCMC network security and enforcement sector chief officer Zulkarnain Mohd Yasin said more than 40 individuals had been investigated under the act last year and four were charged.
“Most of them do not know the source they are getting their news from, but they spread it to other groups, either through Whatsapp or Facebook.
“Although they are not the original authors of the information or news, and just share and disseminate to other social media users, they can still be prosecuted if there is strong and valid evidence,” he said.
He said the tendency among many Internet users to share personal information such as phone numbers, residences, vehicle registration numbers and family members’ information on social media, made it easy for MCMC to track those who spread fake news.
Zulkarnain was a panelist in the second series of Berita Harian’s (BH) Forum Bicara at Balai Berita yesterday, which discussed the impact of information sharing and fake news.
The other panel members included Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Forum chairman Datuk Ahmad Izham Omar and Dr Mohammad Nidzam Abdul Kadir, senior lecturer at Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Human Ecology Department.
The forum titled “Tidak Pasti Jangan Kongsi “ (when in doubt, do not share) was organised by BH in collaboration with MCMC.
It aimed to raise awareness on the impact of false information sharing on the country’s economy, security and peace, as well as the reputations of individuals.
BH took the initiative to organise the programme as a platform to foster a culture of knowledge-sharing and play a role in providing intellectual, informative and up-to-date content.
Zulkarnain said it was unfortunate that most of those who were charged with offences were ordinary individuals who did not have any interest in spreading false news, but only wanted to share information with other friends.
“The real masterminds with their own agenda are those who have fled and obtained political asylum overseas. In fact, they also do not share personal information publicly on social media, unlike most ordinary people who make it easy for authorities to take action,” he said.
Besides detaining suspects for interrogation, he said, the authorities would also seize the means of communication used in the dissemination of false news, with those found guilty of the offence being fined up to RM50,000 or jailed for a year.
He said the commission had never curbed the freedom of individuals to share information in cyberspace, but they should be responsible for regulating themselves and any information they obtained from the Internet.
He said restrictions would only be placed on the dissemination of information if the information shared on the Internet went beyond acceptable limits. MCMC, he said, only restricted information that threatened national security such as criminal or fraudulent websites, and pornographic sites.
“If the information provides useful knowledge to the public, we encourage them to get it,” he said, adding that the rapid development of information technology also made it difficult for MCMC to restrict information-sharing.
To create a clean and healthy social media ecosystem, he said Malaysians must improve their knowledge base, including enhancing digital literacy skills and not hurrying to spread information obtained in the virtual world.