Malaysia's parliament on August 16th repealed a law against fake news introduced this year by the administration of former prime minister Najib Razak.
A bill to repeal the law was passed by the lower house of Malaysia's parliament, a day ahead of the new Pakatan Harapan government marking its first 100 days in government.
Najib's government secured a simple majority in April to pass the Anti-Fake News 2018 Bill, which set out fines of up to 500,000 ringgit (US$122,000) and jail of up to six years.
Critics denounced the law as repressive and accused Najib of trying to curb free speech ahead of a May general election as his government tried to fend off criticism over accusations of graft and mismanagement.
Najib lost the election to an opposition alliance led by former premier Mahathir Mohamad, who had promised to scrap the law.
Parliament debated a motion to repeal the law for about three hours before passing it by a simple voice vote.
This is a law that was clearly designed to silence criticism of the authorities and to quell public debate -- it should never have been allowed to pass in the first place, Teddy Baguilat, a board member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human
Rights, said in a statement.
New Zealand could follow the United Kingdom in bringing in age restrictions for online pornography and blocking websites which refuse to comply.
Department of Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin, who also holds the children's portfolio, says young people are being bombarded by internet pornography and she wants censorship laws to be strengthened.
This is a really, really big issue to New Zealand and we are going to have a serious conversation about it, she told the Herald. Martin supports the approach of the United Kingdom, which has ambitious and controversial plans to introduce
mandatory age verification for pornographic websites later this year.
She made the comments after the Chief Censor began a major piece of research on New Zealand teenagers' online pornography habits. We're pretty excited about it, Chief Censor David Shanks said.
We think it's going to give us some potentially world-leading data on the New Zealand situation and teens and pornography. With this research our aim is to get solid evidence about the experiences and perspectives of young people on the table so
there can be an informed debate.
In our view policy in this area does need some consideration, in terms of how do you regulate use and access to porn in the digital environment. The question there is . . . when the average age to get a smartphone is 10 and a half to 11 years
old, what sort of tools and restrictions can we really place on access to material that's widely available on the internet?
The Office of Film and Literature Classification began the survey last week of 2300 people aged between 14 and 17. It asks if teenagers look at online pornography, how often, what sort of content, why they are looking at it, and how they are
viewing it. The survey is expected to be completed in December.
Martin said the Chief Censor's research was vital work, though she is already intent on changes:
I have already had conversations with the Chief Censor with regard to a particular drive of mine to make sure we as a nation do something about what is the bombardment of pornography and the easy access to pornography that our young people are
Considering our censorship laws were pre-internet, this is an area that we have left for a long time without addressing and I think we need to address it.
Martin said she was not interested in wholesale bans on online content because they did not work. But she supported the UK Government's approach, saying she was interested in any policy which helped to protect young people. She added:
I would really like to watch how they implement it and see what are the challenges for them.
This week, the Indonesian government has forced ISPs to forcibly turn on content filters on search engines by default, which can't be switched off. The new policy has seemingly been extended to Youtube as well, with many netizens now complaining
that the video streaming site's restricted mode feature has been irreversibly switched on, limiting what they can watch.
Based on numerous social media posts, the Youtube restriction applies to users of certain ISPs, both on mobile internet and home internet. Netizens are reporting that even Taylor Swift and K-Pop music videos are being filtered out.
While the government did not say anything about Youtube being included in their recent censorship push, some ISPs like Indosat Ooredoo have been replying to complaints from customers about the Youtube restriction, placing the blame on the
government. The ISP tweeted:
Hi, Youtube's restricted mode is a government regulation designed to prevent the public from accessing pornography.