Malaysia should formulate an Internet Policy rather than an Internet Censorship Policy

by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Saturday, 9th September 1995:

Malaysia should formulate an Internet Policy rather than an Internet Censorship Policy

Yesterday’s press, reporting the announcement by the Minister for Information, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat in Michigan that the Cabinet has set up an Internet Abuses and Censorship Committee is most ironical, for yesterday’s press also reported the first Malay newspaper, Berira Harian, to be made available on-line through the Internet.

In announcing that the Cabinet had set up an Inter-Ministry Committee, comprising representatives of the Information, Home, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, and Energy, Telecommunications and Posts Ministries to look into abuses on the Internet, Mohamad Rahmat said: “We have seen that the Internet was misused to spread the sex culture or pornography quite rampantly…and misused to influence the people in certain countries to oppose their government through the dissemination of negative information…to poison their minds.”

It would appear that the primary motive for the setting up of the Internet Censorship Committee is more ‘cultural and political’ rather than because of pornography on the Internet.

Malaysia should formulate an Internet Policy rather than an Internet Censorship Policy – with the abuses of Internet dealt with as one of the issues by the Internet Policy.

Instead of a Inter-Ministry Committee on Abuses and Censorship of Internet, there should be a National Commission on an Internet Policy to formulate and support the technical evolution of the Internet as a research and educational infrastructure in Malaysia, stimulate the involvement of the scientific community, industry and government in the technology, use and application of Internet, and promote the educational applications of Internet technology for the benefit of the public at large.

Malaysia must recognise that the Internet is a global information and communication system which is becoming a critical resource for organisations and individuals around the world. Businesses, schools, libraries, researches, community groups and individuals are all coming to rely on the Internet as a vital communications system and information resource.

Our central concern must be on hoe Malaysia is to fully exploit the Internet to achieve our national developmental goals rather than seeking means to impose on-line censorship for Malaysians on the Internet.

The Internet was designed to withstand a nuclear attack and censorship is a bit less powerful than that. As a result, the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it making it practically impossible to censor material on the Internet effectively.

Because the Internet is faceless and timeless, it is almost impossible to keep something out of one place if it is accessible elsewhere on-line.

The National Commission on an Internet Policy should give deep though to the whole problem of government censorship of the Internet and consider whether the focus of attention shouldn’t be on empowering individuals to make good and proper choices on what they see and what they don’t see on the Internet.

Another far-reaching change that would be wrong by Internet is that people will increasingly be living, not in geographic communities, but in virtual communities – their primary connections with other people not grounded in the accident of geography but in voluntary associations based on cyberspace.