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Need to lift the quality of our social media users

  • Legislating new laws alone is not enough to check the circulation of derogatory and inflammatory remarks on the social media. Web users themselves must exercise some degree of self restraint!

Sin Chew Daily

Communication and multimedia minister Gobind Singh Deo said there is no absolute freedom of expression in this country and that the public must not abuse the freedom of speech to issue statements that could touch on sensitivities of race and religion and jeopardize national unity and security.

Some may not accept what the minister has said, and are suitably concerned that the various laws cited by the government to control social media would stifle freedom of expression, which is a departure from what Pakatan Harapan has pledged to the voters.

However, if we were to look at the various incidents of social media users making remarks that touch on racial and religious sensitivities in recent months, indeed there is this need for the government to draw up plans to address the issue of the abuse of freedom of speech.

Studies show that there are some 25 million web users in Malaysia, with over 22 million users of Facebook, the single most popular social media site in the country.

Currently Malaysian web users are free to speak or post anything on social media sites, and are free to receive tons of news and information through such sites and other new websites.

Malaysians have been enjoying relatively generous freedom to express themselves. Unfortunately, many have abused such freedom by issuing and spreading all sorts of ill-intentioned and unverified news or information, including remarks that could jeopardize national unity and religious harmony.

It is universal for web users around the world to voice up what they feel and think of any heated issue. The sad thing, nevertheless, is that Malaysia's social media users are generally of poor quality, as evidenced by the abundance of derogatory remarks on various sites.

Misinformation has been a serious issue plaguing many a nation, and governments across the world have come up with all kinds of strategies and laws to control the spreads of fake news.

Some of these countries have been slammed for being too restrictive, which does not augur well for the healthy development of democracy. This points to the fact that governments need to strike a delicate balance when legislating new laws to control the abuse of social media.

Legislating new laws alone is not enough to check the circulation of derogatory and inflammatory remarks on the social media. Most importantly web users themselves must exercise some degree of self restraint. They are obliged to ensure that the freedom of expression on cyberspace will not be abused at the expense of national harmony and security.

 

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