Mixed reaction to Malaysia's Internet Blackout Day

Protest against amendment to Evidence Act sees mixed responses from country's online community, with some calling campaign a success while others note little impact.

Malaysia's Internet Blackout Day on Tuesday has received mix reactions from the country's online population, where some describe the initiative a success while others say it lacked bite.

The Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia had rallied several Web sites and bloggers in Malaysia to shut down their sites or display a pop-up to promote the "Stop 114a" campaign for 24 hours. Participants included the Malaysian Bar Council, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Malaysiakini. 

They were protesting an amendment to Section 114a in the  country's Evidence Act  which puts the burden of proof on Internet account holders in disputes involving defamation. 

The campaign garnered varying reactions from online users. Twitter user "RM0_10" told ZDNet Asia the blackout did not affect his Web experience as only some blogs and sites went offline.

Asked if he deemed the blackout campaign successful, he said no. He added that while he was aware of the Twitter hashtag #Stop114a, he did not know there was a Internet Blackout Day until queried.

Twitter user "iAppleMustache" said the blackout did not "affect even a bit" and "life goes on".

However, another Twitter user "ShaneeKay" believes the campaign helped raise awareness of Stop 114a. In her tweet, she noted the Facebook page for Stop 114a had 1,600 Likes on Monday. This number grew to 32,000 the next day and had attracted international coverage. "I'd say it works," she said.

Using her twitter handle, @n_izzah, Malaysian politician Nurul Izzah Anwar told ZDNet Asia the blackout on her site gave her "a certain sense of serenity and reaffirmed [her] convictions to #stop114a". The next step is legislative reform, she added.

The organizer of Internet Blackout Day--Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia--did not respond to ZDNet's e-mail. 

What is Section 114a?
Malaysia's Internet Blackout Day is similar to the virtual strike in January when several U.S. sites protested the Protect IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

According to Malaysia's Centre for Independent Journalism, the Section 114a amendment presumes "any owner, admin, host, editor, subscriber of a network or Web site, or owner of computer or mobile device...have published or re-published its contents".

"If 114a is not stopped, you will be held responsible for the words of others. It can also result in the removal of comment functions, curtailing your space for posting legitimate comments and opinions.

"This impacts your democratic right to participate freely and openly in public debate and discussions. Indirectly, it will foster a climate of self-censorship, and will have a huge impact on the interactive nature of online media," it added.

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