Malaysia may take action against WhatsApp admins for spreading fake news: Report

Malaysia may take action against WhatsApp admins for spreading fake news: Report

File photo of the WhatsApp logo on a smartphone. (Photo: AFP/Yasuyoshi Chiba)

KUALA LUMPUR: WhatsApp group administrators could face legal action in Malaysia if they failed to curb the spread of false information among members, according to a report by national daily Berita Harian on Thursday (Apr 27)

Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Johari Gilani said the existing law under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 could be invoked to take action against the administrators, particularly if they “jeopardise national security”, the newspaper reported.

Under the Act, punishable offences include spreading false news, defamation, incitement, fraud and disclosure of communications prohibited under the Official Secrets Act.

"The administrator may be called to assist with investigations,” said Johari. “Whether action is taken depends on the facts and evidence of each case."

He added: “If the admin was directly involved or allowed false information to spread intentionally, he will be punished.”

According to Beritan Harian, Johari said WhatsApp admins need to be more responsible for the control of its members so as not to spread false information and should be a “gatekeeper to filter news before sharing” on WhatsApp or on social media.

In a statement on Friday, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) made a clarification on the issue. 

“MCMC would like to clarify to the public conversations in any messaging apps including WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, Telegram, and the like are personal in nature. Investigations would only be carried out if complaints are made regarding the content shared within a group.

“Therefore, everyone, regardless of whether they are an administrator or a member, must be vigilant in ensuring information spread within a group will not incur an investigation,” the statement read.

A NEED TO ACT SWIFTLY

On Thursday, the deputy president of the Malaysian Consumers Association, Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman, said the proposal to impose sanctions against WhatsApp admins should be implemented immediately.

Beritan Harian cited him as saying that false information not only causes annoyance in the community but is a threat to national security.

"In India, the government is introducing a new law which administrators of WhatsApp could be jailed if members of the group are spreading false news,” he told the newspaper.

Mohd Yusof, however, said the sanctions against the administrators involved should not be too heavy, adding that a warning would be sufficient for the first offence. He also added that many other approaches can be taken to monitor the spread of false information, such as Sedition Act 1948, Defamation Act 1957 and the Computer Crimes Act 1957 and the Penal Code, Beritan Harian reported. 

Source: CNA/rw