27 April 2018
On 11 April 2018, the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 (“Act”) came into force. The Act is aimed at preventing the spread of false information and is meant to supplement existing laws such as the Penal Code, the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
This article highlights key features of the Act. The Act defines “fake news” to mean “any news, information, data and reports, which is or are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas”. The broad categories of offences under the Act include maliciously creating, offering, circulating or publishing “fake news”.
- The provisions in the Act have extra-territorial application which allow legal action against those outside Malaysia, whatever their nationality, if the “fake news” concerns Malaysia or if the person “affected by” the commission of the relevant offence is a Malaysian citizen. This will also apply to foreign corporates.
- It is an offence for any person to create, offer, publish, print, distribute, circulate or disseminate any “fake news” or publication. It is also an offence to provide financial assistance to the propagators of “fake news”.
- Offences under the Act carry heavy penalties, including a substantial fine of up to RM500,000 or imprisonment of up to six years or both.
- Any person who has possession, control or custody of “fake news” will also be required to remove such content or face a fine of up to RM100,000 and a further fine of up to RM3,000 for each day that the offence continues after conviction.
- Any person who is affected by a publication containing “fake news” may apply for an ex parte order from the court for the “removal” of such publication. Service of a court order under this section may be undertaken via personal service, by post to the last known address, and most notably, via electronic means (including, amongst other things, sending the order to the person’s e-mail address or to his social media account).
- If the offence is committed by a body corporate, criminal liability may extend to its directors, officers, and anyone to any extent responsible for the management of any of the affairs of the body corporate or assisting in such management.