The Secret Societies Division spokesperson spoke on this Malaysian law… but will it carry over to the United States?

Assistant director of the Bukit Aman Anti-Vice, Gambling and Secret Societies Division, Datuk Rohaimi, said that “Individuals [in Malaysia] having tattoo or symbols of any secret societies or unlawful organizations on their body can be arrested.”

Rohaimi added that those who are caught with a gang tattoo or symbol could be sentenced for up to three years in jail, or fined a maximum of RM 5,000 (or USD $1,230), if found guilty.

The Malaysian government, he said, “had gazetted 72 secret societies as unlawful organizations under the Societies Act 1966 in 2013, because their activities could undermine public order in the country.”

Among the secret societies found to still be active were the Sio Sam Ong, Ngo Sek Kee, Geng 360, Geng Double 7, Geng 3 Line and Geng 36.

“Currently, the use of tattoo by the gang members is less, but their identity as secret society members can also be detected through stickers and banners,” Rohaimi said.

“The identity of the secret society members can also detected clearly at funerals or festivals.”

According to Rohaimi, “a total of 369 secret society members have been detained under the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA) over the past five years since 2014.”

While Rohaimi assured the public that “their identity would not be revealed,” as he urged for public cooperation to inform the police on extortion by secret society members, aren’t citizens terrified to “snitch” on gang members?

At the least, wouldn’t violent members of society remain violent, with or without a tattoo? Should the Malaysian government have a full, thorough process, to make sure those with gang tattoos are no longer participating and active in the violent community?

Should the U.S. have a law like this?

Since 2016, the U.S. government has been funding a project to develop algorithms that can identify and match gang-related tattoos, with success rates exceeding 95%. But it’s raising tough questions about privacy and research ethics.

Dave Maass, an investigative researcher at the United States' Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said, "I do see that there is a public safety interest on [U.S.] law enforcement to track gang members. But the question is, at what point are we talking about a gang or we're just talking about a club of people, or people who have a First Amendment right to associate?"

While technology might be able to link matching tattoos, how does the wave of Pinterest tattoos come into the mix? Will you and your BFFs get flagged for having that matching anchor on your ankles? 

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