KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 12 — The monitoring of private messaging between individuals ostensibly for security reasons constitutes spying on private citizens and a violation of their right to expression and privacy, a non-governmental organisation said today.
Responding to Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar’s comments earlier today that the policing of social media extended to applications such as WhatsApp, Empower noted that text messaging was a form of private communication and not meant for public dissemination.
“To monitor WhatsApp would constitute spying on private communications between individuals, a violation of the rights to privacy and protection against arbitrary interference,” Empower president Janarthani Arumugam said in a statement.
She also questioned the need to police Malaysians’ communication online, noting that recent cases have suggested that security laws were being used to stifle discourse rather than to preserve public order.
Janarthani further noted that it was unfeasible to dedicate the resources necessary to monitor Malaysians on social media, pointing out that the IGP said there were 40 million local accounts on Facebook alone.
Khalid said this morning that his force needed to increase its surveillance of social media due to “overzealous” users who abused communications on the Internet.
He added that threats on social media, especially false messages touching on racial and religious sensitivities, if left unattended, could affect public order.
The IGP also revealed that social media monitoring would include messaging application WhatsApp, which is a popularly used tool to spread messages.