While social media can enhance our interaction with others, it has been the breeding ground to fester disinformation, especially in Malaysia. Hence, I support Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said’s proposal that an emergency parliamentary meeting be called to amend laws governing social media.
Having monitoring the situation for the past few years, I know the situation is worsening and has reached the pits of anti-establishment sentiments.
Social media has poisoned the minds to the extent that any anti-establishment statement or action is now regarded as heroic.
Calls to protests and recent brawls show conformity to rules and regulations and social order is sorely lacking. Many individuals and websites can just lie and fake everything they like, and yet not much action taken against them.
The lack of enforcement and incompetence in enforcing the provisions of the communications and multimedia law and other laws, have festered the virulent ambience in Malaysian websites and social media.
In such a borderless democratic space, netizens irresponsibly pollute the Internet with vicious and negative comments spread at lightning speed to develop anti-establishment sentiments.
Anything spoken/written against the government, the Prime Minister, and government-related issues are spread without fear that they can be arrested. Even when the police take action by questioning some guilty ones, netizens still object to such enforcement.
Shockingly, some MPs also behave likewise. Today, NST reported that “a PKR lawmaker was left red-faced when he had to retract a social media posting on former Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, barely 20 minutes after uploading it in Facebook.”
The post with a 2013 “photograph showing Gani being escorted by a policeman clad with an assault rifle” gave a totally warped impression to readers.
To date, no action has been taken. The fact remains it was posted and those who had screenshot that post could go on to share it at lightning speed via social media.
The stark absence of respect for laws, unity, harmony, and consequences of irresponsible posts can lead to and even deepen dissent.
Such anarchy in the internet is very dangerous; and if unchecked, can lead to very serious repercussions.
I strongly urge authorities to undertake thorough and systematic monitoring of social media and websites that spread hate messages and untruths and for authorities concerned to take immediate action on those that have infringed laws such as the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
Warnings and immediate action must be taken on websites or social media users for tarnishing the repute of this nation, our leaders, rulers, other enforcement agencies, and citizens.
I propose a new system for better coordination between the authorities concerned to enhance the provision of regular feedback to important government agencies that have had to set up their own units to monitor the internet.
Currently, press statements on prevalent problems are often too late and too little. The general comments are useless slaps on the wrists for offenders. Netizens mock at such statements thereby deepening the effect of the poison.
Under such circumstances, netizens have become bolder, more vicious, devoid of respect for the status quo or any patriotic feelings.
Netizens intent on shaming to the country, toppling the leadership, undermining government projects have little consideration whatsoever to the impact on the nation spread disinformation because their minds have been poisoned.
New laws must be formulated and enforced to stop the rot.
I hope Communications and Multimedia Minister,Datuk Seri Mohd Salleh Said Keruak, who recently advocated a review the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA), can herald a reform in this area with new laws or stricter enforcement of existing legislation.
Malaysian must learn how to differentiate between rumours and lies spread in social media.
Let words build, not break this nation.
Datuk Huan Cheng Guan
Chairman , Sensible Ethical Malaysia United Team. ( SEMUT )