Sunday, January 29, 2012

www Does Not Mean Wild Wild West

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.

Monday, January 9, 2012

So Anwar’s A Free Man Today

The Spanker sees three obvious implications from today's verdict:

1. The Govt clears their name from accusations that they manipulate the courts.

2. Anwar misses the bus on martyr status, exactly what PR needed to gain more sympathy votes.

3. Chaos was avoided today. The three bombing incidents where five people were unfortunately wounded supports the suspicion that some of the protesters were hell bent on causing trouble. They were sure Anwar would be convicted.

Anwar's conviction would have been the perfect opportunity to wreck havoc, and many of us agree that had Anwar been found guilty, a terrible riot would have broken out.

So all said and done, if this verdict was politically-motivated by the Govt as claimed by some, then it was a masterstroke, a class act. Lose the battle, win the war – Sun Tzu.

The bottom line is that the court had acted professionally and all must respect its decision.

The three explosions outside the KL High Court today marked another notch in the increasingly volatile political landscape of our country.

The Spanker has often argued that Malaysians are mature enough to handle all the freedoms  that we enjoy. Cautions of dangers posed by extremists among us are often dismissed as the government's attempt to silence its critics and deny the people of these freedoms.

Apparently, it's proven today that those dangers are real. Next time, God forbid, it could be even worse.

With the most crucial general election in this country's history to take place within the coming few months, let’s pray that this is not going to be the year of living dangerously in Malaysia.

Now, it is up for our much maligned police force to handle the situation and ensure our safety. Do you remember who actually maligned our police force?

Heh heh heh They are the same sour grapes who have been bad mouthing our justice system, the judiciary, the MACC, our royalty as well as other government institutions. You know who they are. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Dear Lord, Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread And Politics

Is nothing scared anymore? Have we sunk so low in our various agendas that we have to politicise a daily staple?

GARDENIA or Massimo?

Recently, there has been a ‘Gardenia- Massimo war’ sparked by a campaign to boycott Gardenia because of alleged racist reasons. Some netizens have slammed Gardenia for allegedly practising cronyism and a Facebook group has sprung up, urging Malaysian bread lovers to add race and politics to their list of preferences. Started around a month ago, the online campaign called for a boycott of Gardenia bread because it is allegedly owned by a “crony company”.

The fb group claims that after buying into Gardenia, Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) pressured the breadmaker to stop buying flour from Federal Flour Mills Bhd (FFM), owned by Hong Kong-based Malaysian tycoon Tan Sri Robert Kuok, for racist reasons. Bernas is owned by Tan Sri Syed Mohktar Al-Bukhary.

The campaign also urged consumers to switch to new loaf on the block, Massimo, which incidentally is produced by FFM.

While the link to the campaign cannot be determined, sales of Gardenia dropped, prompting the company to place advertorials in the print media to deny that it is a crony company, and that it had been directed by Bernas to stop buying flour from FFM.

In the advertisements, Gardenia Bakeries stressed that it purchases flour from Malayan Flour Mills Bhd and Prestasi Flour Mills (M) Sdn Bhd purely due to commercial reasons.

It also added that although Bernas had a stake in another flour mill, it had never been directed or coerced into buying flour from the mill.

In return, the FFM group also came up with its own advertorials in the media to deny any involvement in the smear campaign against Gardenia.

The FFM group claimed it is a company that has always believed that businesses should be allowed to operate in a fair and equitable manner that permitted free enterprise and competition.

“We have been fortunate to be able to compete in a market that shares these values,” said FFM.

Datuk Marimuthu Nadeson of Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) sweetly expresses our collective astonishment that a basic food has been politicised thus.

“If even bread can be equated to race and politics, I don't know which God will help us,” he says.

“Although consumers have the right to choose, boycotting for the given reasons reflect something unusual that must be addressed.”

At the end of the day, stresses Marimuthu, consumers must believe in the product based on its quality alone.

A Star publications random poll of about 30 bread consumers at several supermarkets and sundry shops in the Petaling Jaya area found that many of them seem to prefer one brand over the other.

However, the consumers interviewed mostly offer the same sentiment - their choice has nothing to do with politics or race. For most of them, the deciding factor is taste while for some, price is another consideration.

Massimo currently offers a standard-sized 400g wheat germ loaf at RM2.50 while Gardenia's 400g wholemeal equivalent is priced at RM3.20.

Unfortunately, there are some people who are branding bread according to race, as can be seen in online forums.

Interestingly, Gardenia is garnering support from “unlikely” parties, such as DAP parliamentarian Teresa Kok who has come to its defence in her blog.

“I find this SMS to be extremely racist and not acceptable. I condemn the use of the race-based angle in attacking Gardenia,” wrote the Seputeh MP after receiving an SMS on the matter.

Kok also advised members of the public to be more careful with any information received via forwarded SMS/e-mail and not forward it without verification. Marimuthu agrees. “It seems to be quite easy to discredit or run down people online or via SMS. “People must learn to evaluate information,” he says.

Although not common, such smear tactics have been employed before. In 2008, there was an SMS campaign in Penang to boycott the nasi kandar stalls because the operators and workers allegedly protested against the Penang Government at Komtar.

Penang is famous for its nasi kandar and there are more than 250 such outlets in the state. Following the boycott, then Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Operators Association president K.K. Sihabutheen reportedly appealed to consumers not to stay away from the outlets.

He said it was unfair to spread rumours on the nasi kandar operators when they were not even involved in the demonstration.

The campaign, however, fizzled out not long after as the lure of the nasi kandar was too great to resist. Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia (PPIM) activist Datuk Nadzim Johan concurs that there are many Malaysians who are easily swayed by race rhetoric.

“Business is not an issue of race. We can't use political or racist elements in business,” he stresses. He says that PPIM would boycott products based on safety and health issues and not because of who the owner is.

“We are against anything that shortchanges consumers,” he stresses.

Prof Datuk Dr Wan Hashim of the National Defence University of Malaysia laments the racist allegations.

“This kind of thing shouldn't happen at this stage of our development.”

In the past, he adds, no one questioned such things.

“Should we now ask who owns KFC and McDonalds before we choose to eat there?” he poses.

If there is anything to be questioned, it would be whether the product is halal or not, says Dr Wan Hashim who has authored a book on race relations in Malaysia.
Datuk Dr Chandra Muzaffar, a trustee of the 1Malaysia foundation, however, feels that racial sentiment is normal as Malaysia is an ethno-centric society.

“Those who deny this are not being honest and their sentiments don't reflect reality,” he opines. He points out that when we describe fellow Malaysians to others, we often refer to them by their race.

“For example, a Chinese doctor or a Malay civil servant. It goes back generations and is very unfortunate, although not unusual.”

After the race riots of May 13, 1969, non-Malays boycotted durians as they were associated with the Malays, he says. He urges Malaysians today not to condone this sort of practice.

“What we should be concerned about is whether their business practices are ethical or not,” he says.

In an article in the Star today, A consumer known only as Yap sums it up well. He says he is disgusted by all the dirty tactics employed in the smear campaign.

A firm believer in the 1Malaysia concept, Yap observes that race and politics are becoming an increasingly divisive factor in Malaysia.

“It's bad enough that race is already in politics and our forms.

“But when it's in bread, it just makes me sad and angry,” he says.