Internet users unhappy with move to block popular websites: M'sia

KUALA LUMPUR - Consumers and Internet users have protested strongly against the decision made by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to block 10 popular file-sharing websites in an effort to combat piracy.

It was reported yesterday that the MCMC had ordered all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block the websites, in a letter dated May 30 and signed by Digital Security Services division acting senior director Eneng Faridah Iskandar.

Consumers Association of Penang president S.M. Mohamed Idris questioned whether in banning the websites, the MCMC had violated the MSC Malaysia Bill of Guarantees which gave protection against curbs on Internet freedom.

"Using the Internet providers to block certain websites almost certainly constitutes censorship, which the government has expressly promised it will not do in the past."

He also said the MCMC should be using its authority to block immoral and harmful content such as online pornography rather than file-sharing sites.

"If the MCMC has the power to block web-sites sharing films and music files, then why is pornographic and disturbing material still freely available online?"

Urban farmer Nigel Boatman, 75, echoed the call for more limits to be placed only on those who accessed online pornography and violent websites.

"The problem with limiting Internet use is that it interferes with people's rights and liberties."

Banker Daniel Azizul, 24, said greater effort should be directed towards educating the public about piracy before enforcing the block.

"Malaysia is still a developing country, so we should be going through a step-by-step process in dealing with issues such as piracy," he said.

Assistant manager Shoba Manokaran, 29, shared similar sentiments although she also acknowledged the toll piracy was taking on the local music industry.

"Perhaps a better suggestion will be to lower the prices of compact discs by local artistes."

"The Internet should be an open and free system without many restrictions."

However, sales executive Nazrul Niza Aynor, 32, agreed wholeheartedly with the ban as it would enable the government to combat piracy effectively.

"File-sharing violates the rights of artistes over their property and blocking such sites will make the Internet much safer for users."

An MCMC spokesperson had said the block had been carried out at the request of the Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism Ministry.

The websites banned include popular Bittorrent site ThePirateBay.org, Warez-bb.org, move2k.to, Megavideo.com, Megaupload.com, Putlocker.com, depositfiles.com, filestube.com, fileserve.com and duckload.com.

The MCMC could not be reached for further comment.