Gerakan calls on government to review proposal to penalise WhatsApp administrators over activities by chat group members Asharuddin: Consider less coercive alternatives that promote self-regulatory and fact-checking

Press statement by

 

Gerakan vice-president cum

 

Bukit Bendera parliamentary seat coordinator

 

Datuk Dr Asharuddin Ahmad

 

April 28, 2017

 

 

Gerakan vice-president Datuk Dr. Asharuddin Ahmad said there is no need to draft a new law to penalise WhatsApp administrators on actions of their group members. Deputy Minister of Communications and Multimedia Datuk Jailani Johari was reportedly proposed that legal action is imposed on WhatsApp group administrators to ensure they are more responsible for controlling activities of their group members.

 

Asharuddin opined that it is too drastic and there are many laws that already serve the purpose, such as Communications and Multimedia Act, Sedition Act, Defamation Act and the Penal Code. He called on the government to consult various parties and consider less coercive alternatives that promote self-regulatory and fact-checking.

 

“We reckon there is a need to curb spreading of falsehoods but too many laws to clamp down abuse in social media and public communication platforms may pose excessive enforcement and stifle freedom of speech and expression,” said Asharuddin.

 

In relation to such matters, he said it is high time to review Section 114A of the Evidence Act 1950, where the prosecution can rely on a presumption of fact to prove the identity of the person responsible for an internet publication or interactions in social media. The user identified is deemed to be the publisher of the content, unless the user proves otherwise. He said the burden of proof has effectively shifted to the accused, and cyber users in virtual platforms will face the greatest impact as evidenced in the proposal to penalise WhatsApp administrators over actions of others.

 

“It is unfair to penalise WhatsApp administrators over action of others, it is difficult to track down those responsible and bringing them to book due to the common use of pseudonyms and fake identities online, and WhatsApp does not allow messages to be deleted once posted, administrators could be framed by group members deliberately abusing the law, there are better ways to stop spreading of fake news than this,” said Asharuddin.

 

Asharuddin said social media and networking monitoring should not be misdirected against innocent individuals, it is a joint responsibility and shared commitment to curb and counter fake information. He called on the government to reconsider the proposal and consult various parties, while Gerakan is preparing to meet government to share its views and proposals. He asserted that Gerakan believes public awareness and education campaign is more important than legal punishment as deterrence.

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