YouTube video with fake news in Malaysia penalized with month cell

In Malaysia they think they have the solution for fake news: hefty penalties, but not for the platforms that make it possible but the propagators themselves. The first man who was sentenced under the Malaysian ‘Anti-Fake News Act’ was found guilty by the court of posting a video on YouTube with fake news. He claimed that the police needed fifty minutes to respond to a 112 message stating that a 34-year-old man (who was a member of Hamas) had been killed.

However, the Inspector General of the police was able to prove that it only lasted eight minutes and therefore Salah Salem Saleh Sulaiman was convicted to a fine of more than 2000 euros. He could not afford it, so he spends the next month in the cell. The penalties can increase considerably: the maximum fine is more than one tonne, but it will be intended to punish the platforms (which may also receive a fine). Sulaiman may have put a lie on YouTube, but if that is the norm, then half of the uploaders can be thrown into the cell. The punishment does not completely match with the offense, if you look at it from the outside.

Not intended

Malaysia is one of the first countries where laws have been passed to combat fake news. That seems like a good idea, until you consider that the prime minister of Malaysia is in the middle of a corruption scandal involving billions. So, activists fear (presumably rightly) that the new law has only been adopted so quickly because it is a great weapon against opinions that the government does not like.

Wetmakers in the country have already spoken against the law with the same complaints. It is all too easy to make real news fake news and with some hefty fines and possible prison sentences to keep people from sharing critical things. That, in turn, is at odds with the basically good idea to also punish the disseminators of fake news, but this is clearly going too far. That balance between making punishments possible for people who are not so keen on the truth and knowingly spread untrue things and stopping censorship from the government is tricky: hopefully, in the EU i etched better.