No more hiding behind a screen

No more hiding behind a screen

No more hiding behind a screen
Web etiquette: Section 507A of the Penal Code is said to cover online malicious content in any form.

PETALING JAYA: Individuals who write and disseminate criminally defamatory allegations, from insults to harassment and threats, may face penalties including fines and imprisonment for up to three years, as stipulated in Section 507A of the Penal Code, according to lawyers.

Section 507A, passed in Parliament on March 29 this year, has so far seen one person charged with stalking in August.

However, despite no charges having been filed for disseminating criminally defamatory allegations under Section 507A, lawyers contend that the provisions are sufficient for prosecuting such perpetrators, subject to several conditions.

According to lawyer Jason Wee: “It is very important to dive into the content itself. It must be in any shape or form that’s threatening to one person, especially to that person’s safety. It must be done repeatedly, minimum twice.”

He said that online allegations containing elements of slander could also fall under criminal or civil defamation cases.


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“But it can also fall under Section 507A if it is, in any form, being read as harassing, which is also threatening,” he added.

Wee said that malicious and defamatory allegations had been written and disseminated rampantly over the years in Malaysia, but there haven’t been any such cases being charged in court yet.

“In the future, people can look into this context so that justice is rightfully served,” he added.

Wee also said Section 507A was a new provision, given that it was only passed in Parliament in March this year.

“So, the enforcement must basically fine-tune how they are going to be proactive towards bringing this section into place,” he said.


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“There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done by all the relevant parties and authorities.”

Under Section 507A, whoever repeatedly commits any act of harassment, intending to cause or knowing that it is likely to cause distress, fear or alarm to a person for his or her safety, commits the offence of stalking.

Lawyer Datuk Baljit Singh Sidhu said that Section 507A (2)(d) covered online malicious content in any form, even if it was disseminated on WhatsApp, Facebook, X, or other social media platforms.

“Section 507A(2)(d) says that harassment includes giving or sending anything to a person in any manner or by any means.

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“Its contents must put the person in fear, distress or alarm. Also, the police must be able to identify the writer themselves,” he said.

However, Baljit said that oftentimes, it was impossible to identify these errant authors.

But he said if the police have strong digital forensic equipment, then they could find out the source of the harassment.

At the same time, Baljit said that whistleblowers need not fear being charged under Section 507A for speaking out, as the provision only affects those making repeated threats or harassment.

“Whistleblowing and online malicious accusations, such as poison pen letters, are different matters. When it inflicts fear, injury or harm, that’s when it (Section 507A) will come in.

“If it’s whistleblowing writing about corporations and such, it does not come under the act,” he said.

However, Baljit said whistleblowers were treading a fine line, as certain contents might be construed as a form of harassment.

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“Whistleblowers who are intending or encouraging others to harm the individual, that will inflict (Act 507A).

“But it must be a couple of times, more than two occasions,” he added.

Meanwhile, a victim who only wanted to be known as Ting said those authoring malicious allegations often hide behind pseudonyms to attack their targets.

“They think they can’t be traced and can get away with it because civil legal actions are costly and time-consuming,” he said, labelling the perpetrators as cowards and hoping that the new act could protect victims better.

Another victim, who wanted to be known as Tan, felt that it was good news justice could now be pursued under Section 507A, as many victims in the past found it hard to seek recourse against malicious allegations on social media.

“Being a victim myself in 2016, I remembered the arduous process of lodging complaints and legal bureaucracies.

“It was a very psychologically taxing episode, as many people would just text me out of the blue just to ask me whether those allegations were true, and I had to constantly deny it,” he said.

He hopes that enforcement by the authorities will be efficient, as it is crucial to set a precedent to deter anyone who wishes to spread malicious allegations against another.

“Otherwise, harassment will continue and no perpetrators will be scared,” Tan added.

No more hiding behind a screen



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