Fake news bill open to abuse, says expert

CF Fong says regulatory bodies must carry out initiatives to offer clarifications on false news and information.

PETALING JAYA: A cyber-security expert has cautioned that although the proposed anti-fake news law may be meant to help ensure truthful reporting and information dissemination, it could backfire if not implemented properly.

CF Fong said while legal control to prevent falsehood may be good, there are two sides to the coin in this matter.

“The law can be subjectively interpreted and could be abused,” he told FMT.

He said local social media and online news carriers were being bombarded with a mixture of elements, both true and false.

It was therefore hard to tell at times if something was real or fake, he said.

“A piece of ‘fake’ news could have elements of fact and this may render the news to appear legitimate,” he said.

“So how does the enforcement agency work against these mixed-elements-type news? This is something for lawmakers to ponder about,” he said.

The controversial Anti-Fake News Bill 2018, tabled in the Dewan Rakyat last week, states that any person found guilty of creating, offering, publishing, distributing, circulating or disseminating fake news is liable to a fine not exceeding RM500,000, imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 years, or both.

The bill describes fake news as any news, information, data or report, which is wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals, audio recordings or any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas.

Fong said as the legislation would require information providers to be more accountable, it would bring about changes in the way information was disseminated in cyberspace.

“The key challenge is that lawmakers need to be able to weigh and filter what constitutes ‘real’ and ‘fake’ information.”

He said regulatory bodies should carry out initiatives to offer clarifications on false news and information, as was done by the federal government through its sebenarnya.my web portal.

Fake news bill proposes up to RM500,000 fine for offenders

Security expert shows how gullible Malaysians are online