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What Mkini contempt judgment could mean for social media users

The full majority judgment in the contempt case against Malaysiakini over readers' comments is out, and lawyers said it could have serious repercussions on social media users, both personal and professional.

This article will break down several areas of concern, and how the lawyers believe the Federal Court ruling could apply in future cases.

The majority judgment, which was released yesterday, can be read here. The dissenting judgment can be read here.

Malaysiakini spoke to lawyers Asheeq Ali, Azira Aziz, Lim Wei Jiet, Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla, and Bar Council Constitutional Law Committee co-chairperson Karen Cheah for this article.

I have a personal Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/blog. Does the ruling have any effect on me?

There appear to be differing interpretations of the ruling, and whether it applies to individual social media users.

For Azira, and Lim, it does not.

Azira pointed out that the ruling relies heavily on a 2015 Estonian court case (Delfi AS v Estonia), which differentiates commercial websites from personal social media; blogs or websites run as a hobby; or internet forums where users can create topics of discussions on their own.

The majority ruling repeated this Estonian view in Paragraph 99 of their judgment.

However, Asheeq, Cheah, and Haniff opined that the ruling can be used as a precedent against all social media users.

“As long as you enable the comment section in your social media, you are at risk,” Asheeq said.

“I quote the judgment 'It (Malaysiakini) has full control of what is publishable and what is not. It (Malaysiakini) must carry with it, the risks that follow from allowing the way its platform operates’.

“This risk mentioned by the Federal Court is not just for Malaysiakini or any news portal, but it is also a risk for any social media users,” he added.

The following section will outline how much control a social media user has over third party comments...

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