Several well known Malaysian websites have blacked out their pages in order to protest changes to a law that they say will restrict online freedom of speech in that country.
According to critics the amendment to the Malaysian Evidence Act, amendment 114A, will have far-reaching effects on online users in Malaysia, including ISPs, hosting providers, website administrators and anyone who owns an internet-capable device. They say that under the amended law a user or service provider could be unfairly charged for posting “illicit” content, defined as seditious, defamatory or libelous, if the content was posted online using their devices or services.
The Malaysian Centre for Independent Journalism has outlined several scenarios where the proposed changes could be detrimental to businesses or users.
“This amendment could lead to the arbitrary detainment or prosecution of innocent individuals and undercuts a key principle of a fair legal system: the presumption that the accused is innocent until proven guilty by the prosecution.In other words, Section 114A threatens core principles of justice, democracy, and fundamental human rights.”
Malaysian government officials, speaking to the BBC, have denied that the amendment is designed to silence government critics ahead of an election.
The current protest is similar to the online protests to America’s proposed SOPA legislation earlier this year. The SOPA action, which involved online heavyweights like Google and Wikipedia, resulted in SOPA being shelved.