Move to regulate Net content raises concern
By the Computimes team
Computimes (7th June 2001)

THE Government's move to monitor content on the Internet will need to take into consideration maintaining a balance between society's values and protecting people against abuses of the Net.

Only weeks after announcing plans to draft laws designed to punish those using the Internet to create public disorder and incite violence against itself, the Government is now preparing a code of content to further realise the move.

This is in addition to talks of reviewing existing cyberlaws to make Web site operators responsible for what they write or produce.

Whatever the decision may be, the Government needs to address difficult issues such as moral standards and differentiating between constructive criticism and outright defamation, according to Fariz Ali, managing director of FirstFloor Capital Sdn Bhd which provides Internet strategy and related services to technology companies.

"The question of regulating content on the Internet is similar to asking whether content on television and in newspapers should be regulated," he told Computimes last week.

Fariz added that a possible solution to control the Internet is by implementing regulations such as those offered by US-based Web services like Trust-e which accredits merchants for "rightful" conduct.

Tengku Farith Rithauddeen, president of dotcom Skali Group, believes that the country already has enough laws that safeguard and protect content from defamatory, libel and slanderous remarks.

He said regulating Internet content could impose obstacles which will impede the growth of the local Internet industry.

The Government, he added, has to be careful with any regulatory proposal as restrictions could impede the interests of foreign investors who want to partner with local companies.

Tengku Farith felt that what will benefit the country more is promoting a set of ethics that will protect the people, especially children against negative content such as pornography.

Ashley Surin, a cyber and technology lawyer, said the Government's move to monitor the Internet will be more effective if conducted with other countries, at least on a multilateral platform.

Even when countries decide on a supervisory committee, they will then need to find creative ways to tackle the enforcement, he said.

The Government, Surin added, also needs to realise that if technology companies find too many restrictions on their activities, they will just locate their data overseas.

Sharing Surin's sentiments is The Media Shoppe's chief executive officer Christopher Chan who said that the Internet, like other media, should be given its rightful role which is to inform the public.

As such, efforts should be focused on promoting the use of the Internet and educating the public on Internet content, he added.