I just read that MCMC blocked 6,640 websites since 2008. That’s an average of about 1,300 sites blocked a year. Reasons to get blocked:
- fake bank websites
- copyright infringement (I presume these are torrent search engines, MP3/MP4 hosts, etc)
- insulting the royal institution
I have less issue with blocking fake bank websites; but rather than blocking them, they should be prosecuting them to shutdown. This is the same with sites infringing copyright – you get the content removed via a takedown notice, failing which you attempt to shut the site down. You don’t use resources to block the site.
Now, what about pornography? Isn’t it bad enough you can’t pick up pornography at your friendly local magazine store? Malaysians seem to have an appetite for porn, and I wish they woke up to realise that this isn’t a bad thing. Its much worse to have an urge and rape your child/sister/in-law/a stranger.
The royal institution – does the MCMC know how to draw a line between insults and discourse? Malaysian authority generally has no clue of the difference between disloyalty and dissent. There is no institution that is off bounds for questioning – all societies deserve the right to ask questions in an open fashion.
Insults and slander on the Internet will not disrupt the political stability of the country. Insults and slander are published in mainstream media, by politicians, so I doubt the average Joe on the street is going to make a change. But if enough people start thinking and their minds start opening up, what it can do is impact a regime change. And remember, slander and defamation have their own laws that can be applied from the real world. Sedition needs to just go.
Why do we pay the MCMC to police the Internet when really, the onus should be on the user? If I’m a concerned parent, I could install (and pay for – i.e. spur economies) software that filters my own connection.
A question no one has asked or received an answer for: Where is this complete list of 6,400 websites?
More updates on Internet censorship in Malaysia (follow up from yesterday, As elections nears, Malaysia filters the Internet).
- MCMC denies that there are access restrictions, claiming high traffic is what slows sites down. Sheikh Raffie Abd Rahman, the strategic communications chief needs to realise that he’s dealing with people smarter than he is, so this kind of bullshit isn’t going to work.
- Brian Ritchie made an infographic on helping people bypass the censorship. Should be good for most end users.
- Khairil Yusof from the Sinar project made a simple Python app to help you see if your connection is being filtered. This requires you to have a Python interpreter.
- An anonymous source pointed me to For Their Eyes Only. The report is chilling. Do a search for Malaysia (it’s a long PDF, I’ve not been able to read it all). It is covered in TMI and security.my. Avoid this file: SENARAI CADANGAN CALON PRU KE-13 MENGIKUT NEGERI.doc. If you’ve opened it, you’ve got FinSpy. This was brought up before by TMI via the NYT, however MCMC ended up investigating TMI over this.
In other news, it’s World Press Freedom Day. Remember that access is equally as important as freedom of expression.
While I am not in Malaysia and cannot verify this myself, reliable sources have mentioned that there is filtering/censorship happening in Malaysia on the Internet. This isn’t the first time Malaysia has played around with censorship/internet-censorship, but it is a crucial time as the elections are on May 5 2013 and access to information is crucial now.
The first I noted this: TMNet’s filtering of +Malaysiakini video interviews of Bala’s widow. This is a great analysis from the Sinar Project. To make matters more fun, read YouTube Deep Packet Inspection, All HTTP connections being MITMed. This analysis comes from someone who works on CDNs and knows networking pretty well. There’s more at LYN Uncovered the Truth; Our internet is monitored, BN BLOCKING SOME PKR/DAP RELATED STUFF!.
Read more about deep packet inspection. This is stuff used in China, Iran, Russia and even Muammar Gaddafi of Libya.
What are your options?
- Use HTTPS where possible
- Use a VPN that isn’t hosted in Malaysia
HTTPS is nice. Facebook supports it. Malaysiakini supports it. The Malaysian Insider needs to work on this. You can use a Firefox or Chrome plugin called HTTPS Everywhere to assist here.
VPNs are a little more complex as they require setup and usually cost. Apparently there are free ones, as cited in this article.
Spread the word. Ensure that people know this is what is happening.
Update Thu 2 May 2013 11:57:40 MYT: Sinar Project is collecting some resources on this topic and constantly updating the site with a list of known blocked URLs.
On the 15th I wondered what would Google do? On the 17th, it was clear that Google buckled and blocked the video to Malaysians. To be fair, it did the same in Singapore and many other nations. That did not stop angry protestors to hang out in front of the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on the 21st.
But on the Internet, one cannot stop the free flow of information.
This is something Malaysian censors have to come to grips with. After all, even the chief censor in Myanmar has decided to call it a day.
That’s why the offending clip is still online as reported on the 18th. People, citizens of the world, have made copies of the offending video (it is a no brainer to download the video from YouTube) and have re-uploaded it. So now it becomes a cat & mouse game to find the video for the Malaysian authorities and report it to Google. I have no doubt that at least 3.8 people in some government department is working on this task.
Only way for the Malaysian government to ensure that Malaysians never see this content? Block YouTube. I’m sure that would be hugely unpopular. Besides, isn’t there Vimeo and plenty of other services?
Malaysian Government: 0 Internet: 1
The White House did ask YouTube to check if there was a violation of terms of service for the recent video that’s causing the Muslim world to go up in storm. It seems like there isn’t, and the video continues to stay up. Good on Google, good on YouTube, and here’s a win to freedom of expression & speech.
Today I see Dr. Rais Yatim, Information Communication & Culture Minster of Malaysia ask for YouTube to remove the movie. Its just smart that he realizes that YouTube isn’t controlled & created in Malaysia so its not “without our technical capability” to remove it.
There are some problems with this line of thought.
- If you are a company in Malaysia, hosting user generated content, you may be subject to censorship. Will it make a difference if you’re an MSC status company as there is a bill of guarantees? Or does it not matter?
- Rais continues on that Malaysia is an Islamic nation. It is a secular nation with Islam as the religion of the federation. It is a great pity he chooses to skew facts on what is supposed to be Malaysia Day today.
- Censorship without due course. Malaysia has many obscure laws that are passed as acts of parliament while the current ruling regime has been in power since independence. They have been so used to just sending notices for removals that they’ve forgotten that they need to consult the law. And chances are there are many laws that affect freedoms of speech & expression, even though they may be constitutionally protected. Companies incorporating in Malaysia need to take this into consideration.
Its good that Google isn’t simply buckling under pressure (another):
Google Malaysia communications and public affairs head Zeffri Yusof said they received the official request from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and that both parties were discussing the next course of action.
“Google adheres to the laws of the land in every country it has a domain in. So, (we) will act based on official complaints from the regulatory bodies,” he said.
Zeffri added, however, that the regulatory body had to cite the relevant laws or bylaws which were breached when making its complaint.
Now the onus is on the MCMC to show what laws the video contravenes so that YouTube can block it for all those coming from .my domainspace.
What does this do to already poor investor sentiment? What does this mean for startups? What happens when some zealot finds a subversive message in Gangnam Style that may cause all the follow-ups to be deemed anti-religion?
YouTube has a message questioning if you should really be looking at the video. Adults should well, learn to behave like adults.
People to follow: Zeffri Yusof on Twitter is @zeffri. There’s also @GoogleMsia. Google+ account for +Google Malaysia.
So, the MCMC decided to come to their senses and scrap blocking websites. Internet censorship only lasted a few weeks (read previously Malaysia starts censoring bloggers). Of course, to control the victim of the latest censorship act, they used the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), but that’s a whole other matter.
Its interesting to see how many people came around, and the amount of press/attention this whole censorship thing brought. Here’s a quick summary:
- SKMM not ordered to block access to website in where we find out that there are 127 websites and blogs that have been blocked for contravening various sections of the Act.
- MCMC – how to make a complaint – this is a useful website. Why? Because you can write complaints, or fax them, and get the MCMC to respond. They have to, I’m told, so if you feel strongly about an issue, this is the right place to hit up the next time such craziness hits.
- Dr M slams ‘blocking’ of Malaysia Today in where he expresses his disgust (on his blog, nonetheless!) about the censorship of the Internet. Quote: “… action exposed “a degree of oppressive arrogance worthy of a totalitarian state”, and that the Government would soon lose credibility and respect among the people.” Well, under his rule, I’d not be surprised if the ISA was used sooner… but whole other matter, right?
- Reporters without borders picked up on it.
- The Edge reported on it, and this takes the cake, because they were accusing “comments” – “MCMC chief operating officer Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi was quoted as saying the regulator ordered the block because it found that “some of the comments on the website were insensitive, bordering on incitement”.”
- Google, Go Away! – Rocky, tells Google to not build their multi-billion dollar data centre in Malaysia. Its been a long standing rumour that they planned to do this for a while
- SKMM: M’sia Today block order stands, probe underway in where they are deciding which Section of the Act to pick on, and where The Star decides to be relevant and links to the mirror site!
Well, the dark days of Internet censorship are averted. Bloggers beware though, the use of claims of libel, sedition, or just the ISA, might be around the corner. I love how ABC news mentions “a journalist, a blogger and a Member of Parliament” when they cover the recent ISA arrests. A blogger.