Malaysia: Government's Free E-mail Plan Met with Opposition

By: Rebekah Heacock on 26 April 2011

Rather than censor the Internet outright, the Malaysian government has adopted a policy of close monitoring and occasional intimidation to keep bloggers and independent media websites in check. Over the past few years, Malaysian authorities have arrested or detained multiple bloggers and journalists for writing critically about political and religious leaders. Yesterday Prime Minister Najib Razak reaffirmed the country's commitment against filtering while media sites Harakahdaily and Malaysiakini struggled to recover from heavy DDoS attacks surrounding the recent Sarawak state elections β€” attacks some have attributed to the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Perhaps it is not surprising, then, that the government's new plan to provide free email accounts to every citizen over the age of 18 has sparked an outcry on Facebook. Many of the more than 24,000 Malaysians who have "liked" the Facebook page "1M Malaysians Who Don't Want Najib's 1 Malaysia Email" are upset about the plan's potential costs, but some have other concerns. The government claims the email accounts will be used to improve communication with citizens on issues including taxes, driver's license renewals, and other government services, but some are worried that the proposal might increase the government's ability to monitor their online activities.

The Malaysia Insider reports:

β€œIt’s not just a free email. Our personal information will be handed to a dodgy company (according to the Securities Commission, it has to be watched for irregularities),” said a Facebook user, Suk Ng.

A Global Voices online article on citizen media reactions to the proposal notes:

Shahz blogs that this project could lead to other more problematic issues like privacy:

"With every citizen having his own e-mail address, protecting their privacy is going to be a tough job. It will only make fake ID cases more prominent as each e-mail carries the personal details of the citizens."