Fake news is a problem that authorities around the world have had to deal with in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the prevalence of social media and instant messaging platforms is a huge contributing factor. But enforcement is a large part of deterrence, with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) warning back in January that culprits would be prosecuted.
Now, 5 individuals are under investigation from MCMC and the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) for allegedly spreading fake news in Penang and Perak. The MCMC explained that the investigation was being carried out under section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, which covers the knowing involvement in the “transmission” of false news, among other things.
The offence is punishable by a fine of up to RM50,000 or one year of imprisonment, or both, with the MCMC explaining that fake news about COVID-19 can create unnecessary panic among the masses.
“The MCMC and police are collaborating through a Cyber Crime Committee to address the spread of fake news, especially about COVID-19, which can mislead Malaysians and create panic.”
Not the first time
This isn’t the first time that Malaysians have been prosecuted for spreading fake news on the COVID-19 outbreak. In total, 18 suspects have been identified out of of a total of 43 case reports from the public. 6 of these individuals have already been charged in court under the Penal Code.
As of 5pm, 23 March, there have been 212 new cases of COVID-19 in Malaysia, with 47 cases being treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) ward; 27 of these cases are also being being provided breathing assistance via ventilators. In total, there have been 1,518 cases of infection in Malaysia.