What were the main digital policy regional updates in Asia? This space brings you the main updates month by month, summarised by the observatory's curators.
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Curated by Amrita Choudhury
Singapore contemplating new fake news law
There are reports of Singapore contemplating to bring in new laws to address the threat of fake news. Fake news has been on the rise and many countries are looking to introduce legislation to rein in the fake news trend, which many, including social media companies, feel may be used by governments to exert control over the media. Social media companies, including Facebook and Twitter, have expressed their concerns on the possible plans by Singapore to bring in a new law to tackle the threat of fake news, arguing that sufficient rules are already in place.
Internet in local Indian languages could add 200 million new users
The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Kantar IMRB have released a report ‘Internet in Indic’, suggesting that providing Internet in Indic or local Indian languages could be a key motivator to encourage 23% of non-users to go digital in India, which is approximately 200 million. The report mentions that currently, Indic content accounts for barely 0.1% of the worldwide Internet content. In contrast, China has the highest number of Internet users, using the Mandarin script which is today the second most popular language on the Internet. The report recommends that in order for India to increase Internet adoption, an Indic Internet ecosystem needs to be developed.
Malaysia meets tech companies on fake news and taxation
The Malaysian government has met with Internet companies to discuss draft laws on fake news and taxation. The draft laws on fake news would remove ‘fake news that threatens public order and national security’, which is likely to be presented in two weeks. The Malay government is also considering a tax reform that would tax large Internet companies on their advertising revenue, similar to proposals discussed in the EU and the UK, and to new laws that have recently been adopted by Vietnam. Yet, in implementing the revenu tax, the Vietnamese government has encountered difficulties in collecting revenue tax, as it has proven to be difficult for authorities to determine the appropriate tax collection form.
Report on digital surveillance from Pakistan
A report ‘Dangers of Digital Surveillance’ highlighting issues of digital surveillance on journalists and human rights defenders in Pakistan has been released by Bytes for All, Pakistan. This report states that digital surveillance is resulting in self-censorship in the country and recommends legislature to revisit anti-privacy sections in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and the Investigation for Fair Trial Act 2013 of Pakistan, which permit the state institutions to carry out arbitrary and disproportionate interception of communications by journalists and human rights defenders. The report also recommended promoting and facilitating the use of encrypted communications in order to ensure the safety and security of digital communications.
Social media shut down in Sri Lanka
Social media such as Facebook, and messaging services such as WhatsApp and Viber were blocked in Sri Lanka, following incidents of communal violence in the city of Kandy, where the government imposed a State of Emergency (SoE). The government claims that a considerable amount of misinformation and racial hate speech had been spread using social media platforms to incite people, and the blockaging was intended to prevent the spread of rumors and incendiary posts and comments that may trigger further violence. Meanwhile various organisations have called on the government to call off the online blockage as it was affecting the common citizen adversely.
Curated by Shita Laksmi
Islamabad high courts declared mobile network shutdown illegal
The Islamabad high court declared that governmental-imposed mobile network shutdown is illegal. This decision was issues in response to a petition filed by four residents of Islamabad in April 2016. Their petition was related to intermittent mobile network shutdowns that occured in Islamabad in March 2016, and it claimed that the shutdowns had affected their basic rights. The judge decided that the government’s decision to suspend mobile networks for purposes of maintaining law, order, and national security, was in contradiction with the Pakistani constitution. The decision was described as a ‘great victory for digital rights’ by advocate Umer Gilani, who led the case: ‘This judgment has far reaching implications for mobile users in other areas of Pakistan. Anyone can now approach Islamabad High Court for contempt of court in case his mobile services are suspended.’
Research on Internet penetration and behaviour in Indonesia
6 February 2018 | Access
Indonesia Internet Service Provider Association (APJII) released a report on Internet Penetration and Behaviour in Indonesia, showing that Internet penetration has reached 143,26 million people out of 262 million inhabitants. The penetration rate has increased from last year (132,7 million people). Among women, 48,57% of them accessed Internet in 2017, while the percentage for men was at 51,42%. Internet penetration rate in the Java island is 58,08%, significantly higher than other islands in Indonesia. The report also shows that 50,08% of Indonesians are using smartphones and tablets, while 25,72% are using computers or laptops. This is also reflected in the number of people accessing Internet: 44,16% people are accessing the Internet via smartphone and tablet, and only 4,49% have the Internet via computer.
Cybersecurity issues in focus in ASEAN
6 February 2018 | Cybersecurity
A.T. Kearney released a report titled ‘Cyber Security in ASEAN: An Urgent Call for Action’, warning about cyber-risks in the region and calling upon countries to take action to protect themselves. Southeast Asian nations have a USD$2.7 trillion GDP, making the region the world’s seventh largest market. With a population of 645 million people, ASEAN is the third most populous market in the world. The region’s growing relevance makes it prime target for cyberattacks. According to the report, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Vietnam are global hotspots for major blocked suspicious web activities. Spam botnets are also finding ASEAN countries to be attractive hosts for their attacks. If ASEAN failed to protect its cybersecurity, the research calculate that top 1,000 ASEAN companies could lose USD$750 billion in market capitalisation. The report highlights four urgent action for ASEAN: (1) elevate cybersecurity on the regional policy agenda, (2) secure a sustained commitment to cybersecurity, (3) fortify the ecosystem, and (4) Build the next wave of cybersecurity capability.
Cybersecurity featured among the topics discussed at the latest meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministry of ASEAN countries, held this month in Singapore, as Singapore is taking ASEAN Chairmanship in 2018. Ministers agreed on the importance of strengthening cybersecurity cooperation as a key element towards supporting the development of the digital economy. They also recognised the need for better coordination of cybersecurity policies and capacity building efforts in ASEAN.
Curated by Shita Laksmi
National Cyber and Encryption Agency established in Indonesia
On 3 January, Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, swore in Djoko Setiadi as the Chief of the National Cyber and Encryption Agency – or Badan Siber dan Sandi Nasional. Djoko Setiadi is the former chairman of the National Encryption Agency.
This National Cyber and Encryption Agency was established based on a Presidential Regulation signed on December 16, 2017, which created the agency under the president’s authority. This is an amendment of a previous regulation, which established the agency as a state institution under the supervision of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister.
Some key functions of the agency include developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating technical policies to act upon critical cyber issues, such as but not limited to e-commerce, encryption, filtering and cyber diplomacy.
In a recent news briefing after the ceremony, Setiadi stated that it is the agency’s responsibility to provide protection in the cyber world to government institutions, private companies, and most importantly, to the public.
The agency will track cyber crimes and identify perpetrators, but it remains unclear whether it will have the authority to prosecute crimes. Setiadi said that the agency will coordinate with the police, military, and other institutions with cyber capabilities on the information they check. The agency’s budget is to be announced this month, following discussions with parliament.
Curated by Shita Laksmi
Content policy in Pakistan
25 November 2017 | Content policy
Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) blocked private television news channels, hours after police and paramilitary forces launched a crackdown on protesters in Faiz-E-Abad, Islamabad. ‘Under the Electronic Media Code of Conduct, 2015, the live coverage of any security operation is prohibited. TV channels are advised to exhibit utmost sensitivity regarding the matter and refrain from live coverage,’ PEMRA said. Following the order from PEMRA, there were also reports on social media access via web browsers being blocked on the same day. The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority said that social media will remain blocked until law and order were restored and the situation was under control.
Bank in Nepal targeted by cybercrime
NIC Asia Bank, one of the Nepal largest private sector commercial banks based in Kathmandu, suffered an attack last month that led to attackers issuing fraudulent money transfers via the SWIFT interbank messaging service. NIC Asia Bank said that the attackers initiated USD$4.4 million in fraudulent money transfers from its accounts to accounts in other countries. Immediately after the attack, NIC Asia Bank informed Nepal Rastra Bank and was able to recover USD$3.9 million.
Curated by Shita Laksmi
Indonesia, fourth national Internet Governance Forum
27 October 2017 | Capacity development
Indonesia held its fourth Indonesia Internet Governance Forum (ID-IGF) – National Dialogue – on 27 October. The main theme discussed at the forum was ‘Digital Transformation in Indonesia’, and included assessing the country’s readiness for the digital era. Sovereignty, data protection, privacy, and the necessary skills for Indonesians to bridge the digital gap with other countries were some of the most discussed issues. All in all, the programme featured 12 general topics under four baskets: economy, infrastructure, sociocultural, and laws and regulation. More than 250 people attended the forum and it was the first time that the ID-IGF introduced its youth group.
Content removal on Lowyat.net
20 October 2017 | Content policy
On 19 October, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) requested that the Lowyat.NET article, ‘Personal data of millions of Malaysians up for sale, source of breach still unknown’, be taken down, pending investigations as to whether the article amounts to an advertising to sell private information. An hour later, the article which was reposted by Free Malaysia Today (FMT), was also taken down. The MCMC urged everyone not to make speculations on the matter until the authorities completed their investigation. The article was restored on Lowyat.NET on 20 October, with the MCMC’s approval.
Globe Telecom: intermittent network service interruption
16 October 2017 | Consumer protection
Globe Telecom subscribers in the Philippines were unable to call, text, and access the Internet on the morning of 16 October. Complaints over the interrupted services were made via social media and made ‘Globe’ one of the top trending topics in the Philippines that day. Globe Telecom apologised to their subscribers, explaining that they were carrying out emergency operations on their servers that may have affected voice, SMS, and data services for both prepaid and postpaid users. Voice and SMS services were fully restored by 10.43 AM.
Regulation: prepaid number registration in Indonesia
In order to combat high churn rates and abuse, including SMS spam, the Indonesian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology announced its revised regulation on prepaid number registration. Each individual must re-register their prepaid number with a validation from the Population and Civil Registration Agency, starting from 31 October 2017. Failing to do so after the deadline on 28 February 2018, the user’s sim will be blocked automatically. This announcement raised questions over data protection law (Indonesia currently has a Ministry Regulation), which is not yet available in Indonesia.
Second Malaysian Internet Governance Forum
4 October 2017 | Capacity development
The second Malaysian Internet Governance Forum (MYIGF2017), a national level forum, was held on 4 October 2017 in Selangor, Malaysia. The main theme was ‘Cyber Security for Trusted Digital Economy’, which, with the rapid growth of technology and its security challenges, was considered to be well timed and quite relevant. According to Mr Dato' Kamel Mohamad, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Higher Education, ‘this is an era of the fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0), which has the potential to empower, transform and reorganise individuals and communities as it would create new opportunities for economic and social development’.