Malaysia Reconsidering Internet Filtering

Tod Hunter
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — It appears that Malaysia's government will shelve plans to censor the Internet after hearing protests that filtering would discourage participation in the country's "Multimedia Super Corridor," a government-backed initiative offering incentives and benefits for companies building a wired presence in the country.

On Thursday, details emerged of a plan by the country's information and communications ministry that, according to sources who have seen the documents, was aimed implementing an Internet filter later this year.

The government was criticized when news of the plan was leaked, and political analysts said it would endanger the high-technology investment that had been attracted by incentives and a promise made in the 1990s not to curb the Internet.

Malaysia's Multimedia Super Corridor has attracted investors including Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems and pulls in investments worth $458 million a year, according to industry data. "If you block foreign Internet websites, search engines and social media like Facebook, revenues are going to fall and people will start switching out," an official from a U.S. Internet portal operating in Malaysia told Reuters after news of the plan emerged.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said, "The government has no desire to implement Internet filtering," according to the Malaysian Insider, a news website. Najib also said that Internet restrictions were "not effective," contradicting an earlier statement from Information Minister Rais Yatim who had said that there were plans in place to stop pornography from circulating on the Internet in Malaysia.