Malaysia has decided to take legal actions against WhatsApp group administrators if they spread or fail to arrest the spread of false information among members. According to national daily Beritan Harian, Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Johari Gilani said if fake news is spread, especially those which "jeopardise national security", the culprit could be punished under the existing law under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
Under the Act, punishable offences include spreading false news, defamation, incitement, fraud and disclosure of communications prohibited under the Official Secrets Act, reported Channel News Asia.
"The administrator may be called to assist with investigations...Whether action is taken depends on the facts and evidence of each case...If the admin was directly involved or allowed false information to spread intentionally, he will be punished," said Johari, as reported.
The national daily also reported that Johari warned WhatsApp admins to be more responsible and control the group members. He urges them to act as a "gatekeeper to filter news before sharing" on WhatsApp or on social media.
Meanwhile, Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman, deputy president of the Malaysian Consumers Association, said that this new rule of holding WhatsApp admins for the spread of fake news should be implemented immediately. "In India, the government is introducing a new law which administrators of WhatsApp could be jailed if members of the group are spreading false news," said Rahman while asserting that false information not only causes annoyance in the community but is a threat to national security.
However, Rahman also said that the sanctions against the accused admins should not be too heavy and a warning for the first offence is sufficient enough. Moreover, he also said that other approaches, such as Sedition Act 1948, Defamation Act 1957 and the Computer Crimes Act 1957 and the Penal Code, should be taken to curb the spread of false news, reported Beritan Harian.