By ZAHRI YUNOS and NURUL HUSNA MOHD NOR HAZALIN
A FEW years back, it would have been hard to imagine the impact the Internet would have on our lives.
Today, advanced developments in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) have opened up many opportunities for businesses, changed economics, inspired creativity, increased the quality of life and improved relationships.
At the same time, it has also created opportunities for those with devious ambitions to cause havoc and harm.
Cyberspace can be a powerful tool for extremists and terrorist groups to promote extremist ideology and propaganda materials.
What are illicit activities?
Section 211 of the Communications and Multimedia Act prohibits content that is indecent, obscene, false, menacing or offensive in character with the intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any person.
Part 2, Section 5.0 of the Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Content Code interprets “menacing content” as content that causes annoyance, threatens harm or evil, encourages or incites crime, or leads to public disorder.
Menacing content here also includes hate propaganda, which advocates or promotes genocide or hatred against an identifiable group or dissemination of information which may be a threat to national security or public health and safety.
An example of menacing content would be bomb-making instructions and information and statements with regards to possible terrorist attacks.
There have been numerous studies by researchers in Europe, the Middle East and North America analysing these illicit activities.
Among the findings are:
Terrorists use the Internet to spread propaganda and promote extreme ideology on websites such as Yahoo Groups, bulletin boards and forums. These terrorist groups normally manipulate cyber media to release their manifestos and propaganda statements, besides using the Internet for inter-group communication and inter-networked grouping.
With the introduction of YouTube and similar video-sharing sites, videos play an increasing role in distributing extremist and terrorist content. They are now being used as a repository for extremist video content and facilitates interaction between the administrators and viewers.
Web-hosted audio and video clips provide a platform to convey messages to members and sympathisers and even acts as a means to recruit new members via the Internet.
Some of the videos published on YouTube have been related to explosives, attacks, bombings and hostage taking. Web 2.0 media is also being used to promote ideas, share resources and for communication.
By disseminating hate messages through Web 2.0 media, the content can easily target anyone who has access to the Internet. Youths are often easily influenced by these messages, and eventually succumb to the idea, and then pose a threat to our society.
We may like to think that such illicit activities happen abroad and don’t affect us here in Malaysia. The truth is there have been some incidents rights in our own backyard.
Among the local cases are:
Berita Harian (Jan 9) reported that the police detected a change in international terrorists’ tactics in recruiting new members. They are now utilising social media such as Facebook to get new members. Previously, terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda would take years to recruit new members, communicate strategies and launch an attack but now it takes only a few days or hours using social media. According to the report, the police are monitoring the situation and will charge those involved in such activities if it becomes a threat to national security.
Berita Harian (Jan 5) reported that a 27-year-old teacher was arrested in Kelantan for selling a “fake gun” via social media. It is interesting to note that the person used social media to promote his illicit activities. Based on the report, the person was selling the “fake gun” online to customers nationwide. The suspect was investigated under the Fire Arms Act 1960 that could lead to 12 months of prison or a RM5,000 fine, or both, if found guilty.
Berita Harian and The Star (Dec 27, 2013) reported that a 25-year-old man was detained over seditious postings on social media allegedly inciting people to join the “Himpunan Guling Kerajaan” (Rally to Topple the Government) on New Year’s Eve. He posted it online and urged people to bring along necessary weapons including bombs. The man did not realise that by disseminating the message online, many could access to his posting, which posed a threat to public safety and national security. According to the reports, the man would be investigated under Section 124C of the Penal Code. If found guilty, he can be imprisoned for 15 years.
It would be interesting to find out whether the people who use the Internet for illicit activities started off merely curious and later empathised with the plight of the extremists to the point of subscribing to the idea of invoking actual aggression.
If more research can be done on this, it would help policy makers and stakeholders develop strategy to counter such threats.
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