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Malaysian websites go dark to protest Evidence Act

Retweet at your own risk

Many Malaysian websites took on a sombre hue yesterday, as operators blacked them out to protest proposed amendments to the nation’s Evidence Act that would remove the presumption of innocence for some online activities.

The controversial part of the legislation is a new Section 114a (PDF) which aims to “provide for the presumption of fact in publication in order to facilitate the identification and proving of the identity of an anonymous person involved in publication through the internet” and states, in clause 1:

“A person whose name, photograph or pseudonym appears on any publication depicting himself as the owner, host, administrator, editor or sub-editor, or who in any manner facilitates to publish or re-publish the publication is presumed to have published or re-published the contents of the publication unless the contrary is proved.”

The clause has been interpreted as meaning that anyone who causes anything to be published online is legally responsible for it. Re-tweeting a comment other laws consider seditious or otherwise criminal therefore makes the person who re-tweeted it liable for the act of publication.

Protestors argue that’s unfair for individuals and that a test of facilitation is a very onerous burden for publishers or website operators to carry, as it means they will be held liable for comments that run foul of the law.

Another skein of the argument worries that owners of hacked accounts will be liable for activities carried on in their name, while the potential for faked sites that seem to represent an individual are another obvious loophole.

Many news websites and blogs http://stop114a.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/join-us-and-support-internet-blackout-day/ went dark to protest the amendment, while social media users grayed out their avatars.

Public ire at the proposed seems to have worked: Malaysian Prime Minister Najid Razak tweeted that he will ask Cabinet to review the amendment. Just when that review will take place, and what its outcome will be, is not known. ®

Bootnote

The amendments to the Act define a computer as “an electronic, magnetic, optical, electrochemical, or other data processing device, or a group of such interconnected or related devices, performing logical, arithmetic, storage and display functions …”

Your correspondent, as an electrochemical entity, assumes he is exempt from being considered computers on grounds of a frequent lack of logical function. As for the rest of you …

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