By Erna Mahyuni
June 09, 2011 | The Malaysian Insider
JUNE 9 — Tech blog Wirawan Web lived up to its “Internet hero” moniker by turning up evidence of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) directing local ISPs to ban certain sites.
In what looks like a circular sent out by the MCMC to ISPs, a list of file-sharing sites have been targetted including the controversial piratebay.org, warez forum Warez-BB as well as file-sharing site Megaupload.
What I found interesting was the reaction of Malaysians I know on Twitter and other social networking sites; most said they had already known about censorship attempts and/or were unsurprised at MCMC’s actions.
In other words, they placed little store in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s statement that the government was committed to not censoring the Internet.
Cakap tak serupa bikin (Words belying actions), as the saying goes in Bahasa Malaysia.
It’s tragic, really. As citizens we seem to put little store in what our politicians tell us, but don’t we expect politicians to lie to us anyway?
Now, before you go making devils of the MCMC, I suspect they had little choice in the matter. When I was with another Internet news portal, the MCMC had also visited after a “complaint” that had been filed about a video involving not very nice things being done to a cow head.
MCMC has, in fact, very few enforcement officials. Nearly all of them were sent to said news portal to “investigate” the complaint. They were all genuinely nice, polite and very professional. It was also obvious that they didn’t want to be there but were there only because of directives sent from “higher ups.” It all smacked of political interference.
Speaking of interference, how is Malaysia supposed to become a high-income economy when there is so much meddling even where the Internet is concerned? Why have one hand say there will be no Internet censorship while the other hand quietly goes about trying to censor it anyway?
Creativity and innovation do not bloom in highly restrictive environments. That is why you see innovation happening in “freer” nations, unfettered by political interference and the intrusion of ideologies. It is no accident that Facebook, Twitter and the very phenomenon we call the Internet came from the West.
Look at IT’s biggest innovators, who are funnily enough, mostly college dropouts. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell all pursued their ideas instead of chasing paper degrees and where did that get them? Now if an average Asian, heck, even Malaysian university student, announced he or she was quitting school to chase a business idea, the kid would probably get disowned.
That is precisely why nations like China and Iran are doomed to copy ideas instead of generating them. When you rein in free speech and thought, you also constrain creativity and imagination.
So I politely request that the MCMC be left alone and allowed to do its real job instead of being forced to become the Internet police. If we are to become a knowledge economy, then the government would do well to foster that by keeping to its promise — not to censor the Internet.