* Malaysia to look at other ways of policing the Net.
* Earlier plans for Internet filter shot down by PM
* Fears filter could have been aimed at Opposition
By Niluksi Koswanage and Razak Ahmad
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 Malaysia's government on
Thursday said it would seek other ways of curbing "the spread
of lies and seditious materials" online after earlier plans for
an Internet filter were apparently scrapped.
A source had earlier told Reuters the government was
cancelling a tender for Internet filter that drew comparisons
with China's "Green Dam" project and triggered an outcry from
opposition politicians as well as criticism from industry
Information Minister Rais Yatim dismissed reports of any
Internet filter, saying that three ministries have been asked
to study alternative means of policing sedition, fraud and
child pornography on the Internet.
"They have been tasked to look into the matter and report
back on finding a better approach in solving the matter," Rais
told reporters in country's administrative capital of
Earlier, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia
Commission, which issued the tender, said it was a study on
Internet usage so as to boost Malaysian content on the Internet
and that reports of a filter were "sensationalised".
But a copy of the tender documents, seen by Reuters,
appeared to contradict that statement.
The documents said the proposal was to: "Evaluate the
readiness and feasibility of the implementation of the Internet
filter at (the) Internet gateway level."
It would study gateway filters in countries that had
implemented such measures and "find out (their) suitability for
the Malaysian environment".
"The tender is going to be cancelled," said the source, who
had direct knowledge of the tender but declined to be
identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
The Information Ministry came up with the proposal for the
filter in April, but the idea was apparently blocked by Prime
Minister Najib Razak, the source added.
Malaysia wants to double broadband usage to 50 percent of
its 27 million population by the end of 2010.
That could bring more people not only into potential
contact with pornography but also with the country's
opposition. Last year, the opposition handed the government its
biggest-ever losses in elections, spreading its messages via
the Internet to get around Malaysia's generally pro-government
China backed down on its "Green Dam" software, which it
said was aimed at halting the spread of pornography, under
pressure from the U.S., human rights and industry groups.
News of the Malaysian Internet tender emerged after the
government arrested almost 600 people in an anti-government
protest earlier this month.
It raised concerns that the government would crack down on
the Internet, a popular medium for voicing criticism of the
National Front coalition that has ruled this Southeast Asian
country for 51 years.
The firewalls, which the source said could have been
introduced six to eight months after the study was completed at
the end of this year, could have cost in the region of 200
million Malaysian ringgit ($57.01 million) to implement.
The issue of unfettered access to the Internet is important
economically for Malaysia, which has attracted investment from
technology companies with promises not to censor.
Its Multimedia Super Corridor, set up in 1996, attracts
investments worth 1.6 billion ringgit ($458 million) annually,
according to industry data.
Najib has announced a series of economic liberalisation
measures to attract foreign investment and diversify Asia's
third-most trade dependent economy away from its reliance on
electronics and commodities exports.
He said last week that filters were not effective.
Boosting banking, finance and the knowledge economy, all of
which are helped by fast Internet connections, are key planks
of Najib's economic strategy.
($1=3.508 Malaysian Ringgit)
(Writing by David Chance; Editing by Bill Tarrant)