State Department Raises Concerns Over Malaysia's ‘Fake News’ Bill

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday expressed concerns about a Malaysian bill that would penalize the spread of “fake news” with steep fines and prison time, according to Reuters. Under the bill, which passed parliament on Monday, citizens who disseminate “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false” could be punished with fines up to $123,000 and a maximum of six years in prison. The law includes “digital publications and social media,” as well as news spread inside and outside its borders. A State Department spokesperson said the U.S. is worried about the bill's “potential impact on freedom of expression in Malaysia, as well as its global reach, which could impact U.S. citizens and companies.” “We urge the Government of Malaysia to ensure that all its laws, existing and future, fully respect freedom of expression,” the statement said. This comes before the upcoming Malaysian general elections and as other Southeast Asian countries—including Singapore and the Philippines— are considering their own measures to fight “fake news,” a term often used by President Donald Trump.