Malaysia to Censor Some Internet Content

By Victoria Ho, Businessweek

According to latest news reports from AFP and Reuters, the country intends to impose an Internet filter to block "undesirable" content.

From sources, ZDNet Asia understands the ban is to cover only pornographic content, but is not confirmed if it will be limited to such when it is eventually put in place.

The Reuters report added that Malaysia has denied plans to use the filter to police other content, such as blogs and Web sites. It is feared that the filter would be extended to curb content expressing political dissent.

So far, the government has emphasized it will only control pornographic content. Information Minister Rais Yatim was quoted as saying: "The safety of our children is not an Internet game. We will find any way to ensure we are free from the culture of pornography among children.

"Those who call themselves liberals should look at what has happened to other countries who have become victims, where child sex occurs and pornography is widespread."

This move, however, contradicts a 1996 guarantee from the government that it would not censor the Internet.

China too recently mandated all PCs to be shipped with Internet-filtering software. The "Green Dam-Youth Escort" software is expected to be aimed at controlling pornographic content as well, but the Chinese government has not explicitly ruled out the possibility of censoring other types of content, as well.

Malaysia's neighboring country, Singapore, also practices censorship through a blacklist of Web sites. Last year, it banned two pornographic sites in a "symbolic statement", Singapore's Media Development Authority (MDA) was quoted as saying.