Censoring the Internet in Malaysia

The government's move to filter porn on the net is a knee-jerk reaction that does not appear to have looked into the effect of the filters on other types of information, especially those related to health.

 

The Malaysian government has announced that all Internet cafes in Malaysia will have to carry filters to prevent customers from accessing pornographic websites. The Government is also examining proposals to ask all Internet service providers (ISPs) to install filters.

Given the history of censorship and control of the media in Malaysia, this is a cause for concern. The Government has repeatedly promised not to censor the Internet, with the promise being translated into legislation in 1998. Nevertheless, these regulations are being enforced under this legislation, the Communications and Multimedia Act.

Local media reported that the filters were recommended at a conference on 14 June 2005, following concern that the Internet is being used to download obscene materials. Unfortunately, little research appears to have been done on the effect of the filters on other types of information.

According to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, for example, pornography filters can impede access to health information on safe sex and condoms. On restrictive settings up to 27% of health sites are restricted on a search using the word "condom". Yet, nine percent of the numerous pornographic sites escape the filters.

The Centre for Independent Journalism is concerned that this measure, the first to institutionalise Internet censorship in Malaysia, has been hastily undertaken. We urge the Government to reaffirm its pledges not to censor the Internet and to consider other methods of minimising the harm done by pornography.