In Malaysia, April of 2018, Malaysia implemented the Anti-Fake News Bill 2018, a controversial law that deemed publishing and circulating misleading information as a crime punishable by up to six years in prison and/or fines of up to 500,000 ringgit. At implementation, the country’s prime minister was Najib Razak, whose associates were connected to the mishandling of at least $3.5 billion by a United States Department of Justice report. Of that sum of money, $731 million was deposited into bank accounts controlled by Razak.
The convergence between the fake news law and Najib Razak’s connection to scandal was made clear by the Malaysian minister of communications and multimedia, Salleh Said Keruak, who said that tying Razak to a specific dollar amount could be a prosecutable offense. In the 2018 Malaysian general election, Najib Razak lost his seat as prime minister to Mahatir Mohammad, who vowed to abolish the fake news law in his campaign, as the law was used to target him. After winning the election, the newly elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad has said, “Even though we support freedom of press and freedom of speech, there are limits. As of May 2018, Mohammad has supported amending the law, rather than a full abolition. Paul Bernal, a lecturer in information and technology, fears that the fake news epidemic is a “Trojan horse” for countries like Malaysia to “control uncomfortable stories.
” The vagueness of this law means that satirists, opinion writers, and journalists who make errors could face persecution. The law also makes it illegal to share fake news stories; a Danish man and Malaysian citizen were recently arrested for posting false news stories online and will consequently serve a month in jail.