Internet users upset over Govt’s filter attempt
By JO TIMBUONG
PETALING JAYA: Online and wire agency reports that the Government is mulling an Internet filtering system similar to China’s controversial “Green Dam” project has got the local online community in a huff, while technology experts questioned the viability of the project.
Online portals and wire agencies reported earlier Thursday that the Government has called for a tender for a system that could block “undesirable websites.”
Information, Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim, whose ministry issued the tender, also plans to secure direct control over the content and monitoring division of Malaysia’s Internet regulator, Reuters quoted a source as saying.
Rais himself said last month that he would introduce measures to “control the bad” elements on the Internet.
Neither Rais, nor any of the government bodies related to technology, were available for comment at press time.
China’s Green Dam project sought to install software filters on all computers sold in the country to block pornography and “other harmful content,” but has been put on the backburner because of technical issues and a rising tide of protest from civil society in and outside China.
The Association of the Computer and Multimedia Industry of Malaysia (Pikom) was disappointed with what it said was the Malaysian Government’s attempt to censor the Internet.
“It has gone against its word to ensure the medium remains open and uncensored,” Pikom chairman David Wong said.
The MSC Malaysia Bill of Guarantees specifies that the Internet will not be censored to ensure the success of the MSC Malaysia initiative, he noted.
“It will also be difficult to filter ‘harmful content,’ especially that found in blogs, on the Internet as it knows no boundaries,” he said.
Wong said Internet users did not share their thoughts only on blogs, but also through social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, as well as chatrooms and forums.
He said a better and more viable measure would be to educate the public on the consquences of spreading harmful or irresponsible content.
Technology advocate Dinesh Nair said the Government’s efforts might just be in vain.
“They can try to filter the Internet but it won’t work,” he said.
He also believed that if the main reason was to block “undesirable content,” the Government would be better off using the educational approach.
If the Government were to block one “harmful site,” another would just pop up in its place, he added.
Internet users, he said, view online censorship as damaging and will always find ways to circumvent any such barrier.
“It’s better to educate the rakyat (people) to be proactive and identify these sites and exercise good Internet surfing habits, rather than censoring the Internet,” he said.
Artist and new media advocate Muid Latif said Internet censorship would only contribute to the negative growth of the Malaysian information and communications technology sector, especially in the area of creative content.
“This ridiculous restriction will reflect badly on Malaysia and potential investors will think twice about making an investment here,” he said.
Many in the Government have blamed the vibrant and critical Internet culture for Barisan Nasional’s losses in the 12th General Election in March last year, and there has been pressure from some quarters to muzzle the medium.
The Government had previously considered registering bloggers, many of whom are critical of the ruling coalition.
Je ne sais pas pourquoi!