TechnoStorm

WiFi providers caught between Evidence Act, DBKL

Operators of the bigger Kuala Lumpur eateries might as well surrender to the authorities once Section 114(a) of the Evidence Act takes effect.

It would be too risky for them to offer WiFi services to patrons, said BFM radio producer Jeff Sandhu (left) .

 

This is especially in view of KL City Hall’s announcement in January that food operators occupying premises bigger than 120 sq m must offer WiFi services as a prerequisite for licence application and renewal.

 

“If you are running a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur and, by law, you are required to have public WiFi, you might as well walk to jail or walk to the cops and say ‘Arrest me!’” said Sandhu.

 

Sandhu, who produces BFM’s ‘Tech Talk’ segment, was a panelist at a forum last night to discuss the impact of Section 114(a) of the Act.

 

The amendment would presume that the owner, editor or administrator of a website on which any posting appears - or the owner of the Internet connection or equipment with which the posting was made - is also the person who made the posting, unless it is proven otherwise.

 

Another panelist, Digital News Asia co-founder A Asohan (right) , said Malaysia has a thriving Internet business scene.

Investors believe this could outpace that of Singapore, but the amendments would put a damper on it, he said.

 

“You can’t have an Internet economy when people fear for the Internet. You can’t have a high-income nation when people fear to express themselves,” he said.

 

He also quoted management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company as saying that Internet businesses contribute 4.1 percent to Malaysia’s GDP.

 

“You want to create a high-income nation. How do you do that? You need have people who are intelligent, educated in the right way - not merely drilled in the basics of science, maths and (who) just answer the questions,” Asohan said.

 

“A lot of our students are finding this extra knowledge through the Internet. They are willing to express themselves through the Internet... you need to get out of the school system to learn all these things.”

Responding to moderator and The Nut Graph editor Jacqueline Ann Surin, he said online media platforms would be the first victims of this law.

 

“Let’s face it, we’ve got how many thousand cybertroopers out there? They could just go and disturb all these sites. Now they can have a field day, go into Free Malaysia Today, post something, and the police would say, ‘Ha, got you!’”

‘Easy to forge identities’

 

Sandhu pointed out it is very easy to forge identities online, and that there is even a 10-step guide available online on how to impersonate another person’s email address.

 

“It puts the average Internet user at the mercy of the unscrupulous tech-savvy user. It is shielding identity thieves and hackers,” Asohan said.

“The victims are now the guilty, and there is no onus for the government to go after those who steal your identity, post things in your name, hack accounts, do stuff with it.”

KL Bar IT committee co-chairperson Foong Cheng Leong said it would be difficult to handle even the “rebuttable presumptions” once a person is charged.

 

“You go to court (with a civil suit). The fees are at least RM50,000-100,000 and you are there to defend against a High Court case as a normal, middle class, working citizen,” he said.

 

“How are you going to, first, get a lawyer. You also need technical assistance from someone who has technical abilities to look at all these modems, all these routers, and all these devices that you have to prove that it (the offensive posting) didn’t come from you.”

 

Foong said this would not even be possible if it were a criminal proceeding because the modus operandi of the police would be to confiscate the equipment.

 

“Once they take it from you, how are you access your own PC and show that ‘at this time I did not access anything’? The thing is lying somewhere in a exhibit room,” he said.

 

Foong said there is a need to deal with Internet trolls (people engaging in anti-social behaviour online), but the new law is not up to the task.

 

“We need something more technical. We need expertise to trace people online. The law is not the way to solve this. It is simply putting the blame on someone. In Chinese, we call this ‘eat the dead cat (being a scapegoat)’,” he said.

 

Centre for Independent Journalism director Jac SM Kee said the new law restricts freedom of expression and promotes a culture of surveillance. The media watchdog has started an online petition against the amendments.

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