Internet shutdowns, online ban no solution to intolerance, says Kit Siang

DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang.

PETALING JAYA: Curtailing online freedom by shutting down the internet is no solution to fake news and hate speech, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang says, as the authorities and police made a rare announcement this week that they would not allow Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik to post his speeches online.

“Malaysia must not take this route of internet shutdowns. We must learn from other countries to deal with internet abuse which allows extremist groups to incite fear, hatred and intolerance through false and incendiary internet posts to destroy the fabric of diverse communities,” Lim said.

Instead, Lim said, the solution to the abuse of social media should be more efforts to instil understanding and tolerance.

He said “troublemakers” can always circumvent any move to block online material.

“The problem is that there’s no evidence that such bans work. They do nothing to moderate the anger that might lead to violence, and dedicated troublemakers can evade them with VPNs and other technology – or simply by spreading rumours the old-fashioned way,” he said.

Lim gave several examples of recent internet shutdowns by democratic governments, including in India where he said the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi suspended internet access for the 53rd time this year in the wake of protests in the restive Jammu and Kashmir.

“Last year, 25 governments imposed internet blackouts. Worldwide, such shutdowns rose to 188 last year, up from 75 in 2016,” Lim said.

“Around the world, governments are hitting on this modish new idea – turn the internet off – but this cure may be worse than the disease.”

Lim did not make any reference to Naik, who courted controversy with remarks seen as critical of ethnic Chinese and Indians.

But his comments come in the wake of a rare gag order issued by police this week, instructing contingents nationwide to ensure that Naik is stopped from speaking both physically and online.

Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador has defended the gag order.

“That seems fair. It is only temporary and if the situation doesn’t change, the instructions will remain,” he said.