Parody accounts on social media liable to legal action, says MCMC chief

The Twitter application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. — Reuters pic
The Twitter application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 — Agencies or individuals affected by parody or fake accounts can take civil action against the account holders, said Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) chairman Dr Fadhlullah Suhaimi Abdul Malek.

He said it is the right of the individuals or agencies concerned to take legal action and there are also other laws in the country that could be applied to deal with those who misuse technology, but there were not under the jurisdiction of MCMC.

“Parody accounts are not only a problem in Malaysia, these parody accounts are widespread both locally and abroad. Everything is the same.

“A parody account is a social media account, especially Twitter with a name / brand or logo that is almost similar to a well-known body or organisation or dignitaries. It is a new trend in delivering false news, to mock or insult.

"A parody account is often uploaded through a global platform, namely Twitter or Facebook  that are based abroad. So the laws, whether in Malaysia or any other country, have their limitations.

“Those abroad are difficult to eliminate, but for individuals in the country, we are trying to use the approach of making our citizens to be morally conscious, that is, they can say what they like, but do not cheat. Freedom of speech, but not freedom to lie,” he said when met by Bernama recently.

He cited some examples of parody accounts in Malaysia, such as 'Bermana' , which many people thought is that of the Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) and also Jakim @ MyJakim, which used the same logo, but with the letter J changed to L and there was a caption “Just Kidding".

“As followers, they are not aware because when you look at the content, it is not only in the form of jokes but also confusing the public," he said.

The Bermana Twitter parody account  @bermanadotcon., with 24.6k followers delivering fake news, and Jakim's fake Twitter account, which manipulates the Quranic verses and hadiths, caused problems for the owners of the real Twitter account owners, Bernama and Jakim.

He said the investigation took some time and MCMC had been in touch with Twitter and Facebook.

The public has to understand that the global platform company is not in Malaysia, he added.

On Oct 5, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri had called on the Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to take appropriate action regarding a parody Twitter account using the department's name and logo.

MCMC, through its official website on Oct 6, had updated the status of the Twitter account @MyJakim  and urged the public to be more cautious of parody accounts.

“MCMC would like to express its appreciation to Twitter for its cooperation in suspending the Twitter (parody) account of Jakim @ MyJakim which was found to be attempting to spread messages that insult the religion.

"The public is advised to be cautious with the existence of such fake accounts and report it to the authorities for further action," it said. — Bernama

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