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MCMC’s reason to ban undi.info raises some serious questions

MCMC ban undi.info

It was recently revealed that MCMC had instructed Malaysian telcos to block undi.info, a live election results site, for a couple of hours. Project Sinar which had closely monitored several election and political related websites have shown evidence that undi.info was blocked on TM and Maxis via DNS hijacking.

Last Friday, MCMC had issued a statement on the matter and they acknowledged that a blockade was issued due to “complaints received”.

The last paragraph of the statement mentions that they have received complaints that the results and information published on live.undi.info was inaccurate. However, after further checks, they have lifted the ban as the criteria required to block the site is no longer valid.

The same statement also mentions that the ban on Sarawak Report and Medium have been lifted as the 1MDB report is now public. About 3 years ago, MCMC had warned Malaysians not to spread false news on 1MDB.

Although the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 Section 3(3) clearly states that there’s no Internet censorship, there are clauses to handle inappropriate content as outlined in Section 233.

Last year, Steam was blocked in Malaysia because of the controversial Fight of Gods game. The gaming platform ban was lifted after Steam had complied to MCMC demands. While many have argued that this situation could have been managed better, at least MCMC have given Steam a 24-hour notice to disable the game which was deemed to be offensive in Malaysia.

In the case of undi.info, the ban was imposed almost immediately as the results started to come in. MalayMail had obtained a purported copy of MCMC’s letter to telcos and it had ordered the ban on 3 URLs: live.malaysiakini.com, live.undi.info and undi.info.

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According to MCMC, the sites had allegedly violated Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act and they urged telcos to take action under Section 263 (2) of the same act. It emphasised that action must be taken immediately as it affects national stability, public order and harmony, and economic stability.

The alleged letter which was signed by the COO of MCMC on behalf of the Chairman also states that failure to comply is an offence under Section 242. If found guilty, there’s a fine of not exceeding RM100,000, or imprisonment of not more than two years or both.

According to MalayMail, the letter was not only sent to TM and Maxis, but also to other providers such as Celcom, Digi, YTL, TIME, MyKris, RedTone, Aries Telecoms and Extreme Broadband.

Such action does raise some serious questions with regards to content. What is considered to be a threat to national stability and public order? If reporting unofficial results is an offence, why were Malaysiakini websites singled out? Did MCMC verify the complaints and contact undi.info before ordering the ban?

Some have condemned MCMC for their “block first, investigate later” approach.

The current administration had promised to repeal laws that restrict press freedom in Malaysia including the new Fake News Act 2018. With the incoming Minister of Communications and Multimedia, we could expect some changes to the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

What do you guys think? Leave your thoughts below.

Below are the mentioned sections of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 for reference:
Section 211

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Section 233

Section 242

Section 263(2)

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Alexander Wong