Internet access and the use of electronic communications tools such as email are the norm in today’s workplace, and are, in many cases, vital to the survival of the company.
However, excessive Internet use unrelated to work can have a negative impact on productivity. Employees who download and install unauthorised software and games onto workplace computers may expose employers to potential liability for breach of copyright.
Likewise, sending slanderous letters to public websites or sending offensive emails to co-workers or displaying pornographic materials on the computer screen, among other things, could also expose employers to the risk of litigation.
Using company email to promote ill-will and hostility among different races or classes could render employers liable for abetting sedition under the Sedition Act 1948. The Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 prohibits websites and blogs from carrying lewd news, venomous speeches or fake news. The 1998 Act also prohibits the communication of pornographic materials over the Internet and action can be taken not only against the content providers, but also service providers, for allowing the transmission of obscene materials.
The Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 prohibits pornographic materials under “undesirable publication”. Furthermore, the distribution, exhibition and circulation of obscene books, pamphlets, among others, are prohibited with penal consequences under the Penal Code. Offences related to the misuse of computers are regulated by the Computer Crimes Act 1997.
The courts have taken judicial notice of the fact that cyber and Internet infiltrations and crimes are on the increase. In Rutinin Suhaimin v PP (2015) the appellant was charged and convicted under the Communications and Multimedia Act when he entered a comment via his Internet protocol account.
An employee who circulates e-mails containing abusive language and profanity via his employer’s Internet facilities may be dismissed from employment for gross misconduct at the workplace. The Industrial Court in Bax Global Imports (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd v Saravanan Rajagopal (2007) stated: “The provision of Internet facility is basically for work related matters such as speedy communication via e-mails, submitting of reports or other relevant documents or materials, quick response to clients, research, Internet banking and other legitimate use. It is an abuse to use it as a tool to attack the integrity of one’s superior or other employees. Such act is an act which cannot be tolerated and is a violation of the Internet policy, a serious misconduct in any organisation or industry.”
Professor Datuk Seri Dr Ashgar Ali Ali Mohamed
Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws, International Islamic University Malaysia.