As many bloggers are now finding out, cyberspace is not lawless. It is in fact governed by the same legislation as in the real world. There are many laws that are applicable to cyber-crimes, such as the Defamation Act, Sedition Act, Penal Code, the former Internal Security Act... and even if you are not bound by Malaysian law (for certain activities), you may be bound by international laws.
Thanks to the ever-shifting parameters of the Internet and the proliferation of its content, the rules of conduct online are changing more rapidly than we realise.
With a single status update on Facebook, a university student instantly became a wanted man.
To the student, it was a merely a joke; but to the authorities, his posting on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak reading “najib is coming to our campus... let's bomb his helicopter...” was a real security threat.
The Police immediately hauled him in for questioning on suspicion of criminal intimidation under Section 506 of the Penal Code.
A few days after the first bomb threat arrest, another student was detained for posting death threats on the PM. She later claimed that her Facebook account was hacked.
Right about now you may be thinking that they should have used a fake identity to say and do whatever they wanted online.
Even if you use an Angry Bird as your profile photo, the authorities can trace you. Everyone has a digital footprint; anything we do online can be traced. Even if you create a fake persona, there is other information that will lead back to you, and information on common friends and events may pinpoint your real identity.
Unless you are skilled in high tech you will not be able to cover your tracks and bypass your detectors. What is clear is that the ever-changing landscape of the Internet means that the legal and ethical lines online is also constantly moving.
For example content uploading - these days it is common to see camera phones clicking and blinking away at private functions and public events. But uploading these pictures onto the Net without realising the consequences of making the content public could backfire on the individual concerned.
The obvious misdemeanours are the illegal downloading and file sharing and the death threats but there are also many common “crimes” that you may be committing unknowingly.
Defamation- how can you be sued for defamation if no name is mentioned, right?
If a rumour about someone is spreading on the Internet, and you post your two sen on the matter without the name appearing anywhere in your posting, you can still be sued for defamation.
You may say that it is freedom of speech but to the person concerned it is defamation, and he or she can file a suit against you.
Basically, you cannot accuse someone of something without concrete evidence.
Injunctions or ban on making comments on a person's private life are also becoming popular among the rich and famous. Although the gag order is often targeted at the media, the average person on Twitter and Facebook will still need to be careful about making comments if they don't want to be taken to court.
Sedition- religion, race and politics are topics that are also generally off limits on the Internet in Malaysia.
While the laws governing these national security issues are sometimes vague something that is acceptable to some are offensive to others, so the police will take action if they receive reports from the public.
Many social network providers do not have filters (so) they will not stop you from committing the mistakes in the first place. You hope that you could be alerted if you say something that will get you into trouble and delete it before anyone sees it. Unfortunately, you will not be alerted.
Instead, more social media network and telecommunications providers are carrying disclaimers stating they will not be held responsible for any crime committed via their network. They will also not hesitate to share evidence with the authorities.
Pornography- If you receive a pornographic picture or video in your e-mail, don't be too quick to share it with your colleagues. It is against the policy and ethics of most companies, and may even get you sacked. Internet pornography is not yet a crime in Malaysia but it is illegal to sell or possess pornographic material and carries a fine of up to RM10,000.
Child pornography is governed by international laws, so if you post or forward any picture and video of children in indecent poses, you will be counted as a criminal. These days with over-zealous parents posting and sharing pictures of their children in various kinds of poses and states of undress online, you may need to be extra careful that no moral lines are crossed.
Cyber stalking- it is an interesting concept in the e-world. We keep our distance in the physical world but in the cyber world what is the personal space?”.
If you do not like someone, you will automatically keep your distance and if you see that person hovering around your house, you may get worried and inform the authorities.
Online, this concept is a bit more vague, and it is difficult to trace the “silent” follower. Most of us will not like it if we have someone following us all the time and writing on our wall, commenting on various things.
If people are warning you not to follow them or are “un-friending” you, then you know that you may have crossed the line. Or if you have been blocked, so you create a new profile under a pseudonym or nickname to be his or her friend, then you know that you have a problem. Sometimes you may just need to get a life.
At forums and talks, the speaker may be saying confidential things that he or she does not want to be made public. In some cases it may be a copyright infringement for example, some musicians state clearly on the back of their concert tickets and at venue entrances that recording is prohibited.
Fraping - said to be the current rage online, fraping is signing into someone else's Facebook page and changing their status. Although many insist that they do it for fun, this is basically account hijacking and is illegal.
A harmless prank can sometimes have harmful consequences: for example, your boss may see your false status and take disciplinary action against you, or a potential employer may think twice after seeing the photo that you have been falsely tagged in.
At the very least, your Facebook account may be closed for being against the social media network's terms of service, and you lose all your data.
Corporate secrets - “A bad day at work.” This Facebook status update caused a father of three in Britain his job. His argument that he did not mention the name of his company was deemed as irrelevant. As the industrial court judge ruled, his FB friends knew where he worked!
He was told that the comments breached his company's “social networking policy” and could “damage the reputation of the company”.
So, even though it is not illegal, many companies now restrict the use of social media network during working hours, as well as monitor their employees' work “grumbles”.
“Even though you don't mean anything by it, your postings can affect the organisation's reputation or stock prices,” It is legally binding if you have signed the company's Standard Operating Procedure.
There have also been many incidents related to social media networks which involve people posting corporate secrets or giving out information that is supposed to be confidential to their company or privy to a certain number of people.
One is through photos of restricted areas at some companies. Many people are caught unaware when they upload photos of themselves taken in supposedly restricted areas.
A growing issue now is the leak of company secrets through personal devices such as pen drives. Now organisations are allowing employees to bring their own devices, which are usually used for both corporate information and personal data. Many also share these devices with their family members.
If you or your family members do not follow the best practices online, or if the computer is compromised, then it may cause information leaks. You need to make sure that you comply with your company's policy.