Famed for its opulent palaces and lush rainforests, Brunei is a small but affluent nation on the island of Borneo. While it has made investments in its digital infrastructure, the country faces considerable challenges concerning digital rights, online freedom, and internet privacy. Governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic law and an authoritarian regime, Brunei is also influenced by international affiliations, such as ASEAN.
2. Internet Censorship and Freedom
Brunei has significant restrictions on free expression, press, and internet, including criminal libel laws. The government is known to monitor online communications for content that could be considered subversive. Reporters and editors in the country often engage in self-censorship on sensitive matters such as politics and religion. A press law imposes prison terms of up to three years for reporting “false news”.
3. Peer-to-Peer Services and Torrenting
Information on Brunei’s position on P2P services and torrenting is limited. While there are no specific reports on government actions against torrent websites, the stringent legal framework suggests that unauthorized sharing may attract legal consequences.
4. Media Websites and Social Media Access
The mass media in Brunei, including the privately-owned Brunei Press Sdn Bhd, publisher of the Borneo Bulletin, is strictly controlled by the government under Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Despite these restrictions, Brunei has an active online community. However, reports suggest that self-censorship is prevalent, particularly concerning topics related to the monarchy.
5. Net Neutrality
The official stance on net neutrality in Brunei is not clearly defined, and ISPs generally operate without explicit net neutrality principles.
6. Legal Framework
Brunei has a Computer Misuse Act designed to tackle cybercrimes, but comprehensive laws covering digital rights and data protection are missing. Self-censorship is encouraged through an existing legal framework that restricts freedom of expression.
7. Surveillance and Privacy
Brunei’s government is known to use an informant system to monitor suspected dissidents. Although there are no reports of internet shutdowns in Brunei, the atmosphere is such that surveillance is a concern. For those worried about digital privacy, it is advisable to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and encrypted communication services.
Brunei faces a unique set of challenges in its digital landscape, balancing modernization efforts with strict societal and legal norms. Surveillance and self-censorship are pervasive, and the state controls media rigorously. As Brunei continues its journey in the digital realm, these issues are expected to remain at the forefront of discussions on its digital policies.