Anti-Fake News Bill Tabled, Seeks High Punishment for Offenders

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The much anticipated Anti-Fake News Bill 2018 has been tabled at the Dewan Rakyat for its first reading today after the Cabinet approved its draft last Wednesday.

 

Under the proposed Anti-Fake News Bill, the dissemination of fake news on social media and any other medium could land you with a hefty fine and in jail.

Once the Bill becomes law, anyone found “knowingly creating, offering, publishing, printing, distributing, circulating or disseminating” any fake news or publication containing it faces a fine of up to RM500,000 or imprisonment of up to 10 years or both.

In addition, the Court may order for the making of an apology, such as in open court or in the newspaper.

The Bill also states that any person who fails to remove publications containing fake news is liable to a fine of up to RM100,000 and in the case of a continuing offence, to an additional fine of up to RM3,000 daily during which the offence continues after conviction.

Anyone found providing financial assistance for the purposes of committing or facilitating the offence faces a fine of up to RM500,000 or imprisonment of up to 10 years or both.

It said the Bill is needed as a deterrent to send the message that everyone is responsible for sharing real and verified news.

The Bill also seeks to protect the public against the spread of fake news whilst ensuring the right to freedom of speech and expression under the Federal Constitution is respected.

It said the Bill shows that the Government will not compromise with the dissemination of fake news that can threaten the peace and security of the country.

It added that the Bill is needed because the current Penal Code, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 are not adequate to cope with the complex nature of the spread of fake news in this technological era.

Among the new elements in the Anti-Fake News Bill is the allocation of extraterritorial applications, where the Government is legally allowed to exercise authority beyond Malaysian borders.

The Bill will have an interim measure to restrict the dissemination of fake news while investigation and prosecution of a case are underway.

It said Government will appoint the Courts as a neutral party to decide the authenticity of the disseminated news by due process of law.

The Courts will have the power to order the removal of any publication that publishes fake news.

There are also provisions in the Bill on the power of the Courts to make an order to remove any publication medium, in particular, social media platforms.

It added that Bill was drafted in accordance with the power of attorney as provided in paragraph (a) of Clause 2 Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.

What counts as ‘fake news’

  • When B publishes ‘fake news’ from A unknowingly, A is guilty

Scenario: When B publishes on his blog news he received from A without knowing if the news was false, he is not guilty but A is.

  • When A publishes ‘fake news’ on X, A is guilty

Scenario: When A fabricates information in an article published in his blog, such as alleging that X offered bribes to get contracts, A is guilty.

  • When B shares A’s ‘fake news’ on X knowing it was false, A and B are guilty

Scenario: When B publishes on his blog news he received from A on X that he knew was false, A and B are guilty

  • When A impersonates a government agency and issues ‘fake news’, A is guilty

Scenario: When A impersonates a government agency by creating a website and publishing a guideline purportedly issued by a head of the agency which never existed, A is guilty

  • When A tells ‘fake news’ about X in a public forum, A is guilty

Scenario: When A speaks at a public forum that X had embezzled funds collected for charity knowing the information was false, A is guilty

  • When A announces ‘fake news’ about X in a press conference, A is guilty

Scenario: When A claims in a press conference that X, the owner of a business, will give out free gifts to the first 100 customers on the first of every month when such a deed was never the intention of X, A is guilty

Meanwhile, Selangor Ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah has voiced his concern over the advent of fake news in social media during his royal address at the opening of the sixth session of the13th Selangor Legislative Assembly sitting today.

“I am saddened when I read false or fake news on the Internet, especially over social media, which clearly contradicts actual facts,” he said.

He added that what truly worried him was that many people believed fake news and spread it without checking its validity.

The ruler said that the dissemination of fake news has given rise to a rapidly-growing culture of defamation.

“If this continues in society, I worry the people will be exposed to division until it can destroy the state and the country.

“Therefore, I wish to remind everyone, especially the multiracial and multi-religious people of Selangor, to maintain and strengthen the unity that we are enjoying now,” said the Sultan.

He also told all parties concerned to not politicise the state’s water issue.

“Like I stated in my address at the opening of the fifth term of the sitting last year, all parties must be responsible and not politicise Selangor’s water issue.

“I hope the water issue, which involves the interests of the people, can be overcome immediately,” he said.

The Ruler said he had stated before that politics was not meant to hunt for power but to achieve an excellent administration to develop the state.

“Power is a trust to achieve the people’s aspirations,” said Sultan Sharafuddin.