Malaysia urges Meta and TikTok to monitor harmful content

Malaysia has laws against seditious remarks against the monarchy, and race and religion are sensitive topics.

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Malaysia has called upon social media giants Facebook operator Meta and short video platform TikTok to intensify monitoring efforts on their platforms due to a surge in harmful content, as reported by the government. In the first quarter of 2024 alone, authorities referred 51,638 cases to these platforms for further action, a significant increase from the 42,904 cases recorded last year. While specific details on the reported content were not disclosed, the move aims to combat disseminating harmful material online, particularly concerning sensitive topics like race, religion, and royalty.

According to statements from Malaysian regulatory bodies and police, the plea to Meta and TikTok also encompassed the need to address content indicative of coordinated inauthentic behaviour, financial scams, and illegal online gambling. Sensitivity surrounding race and religion in Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation with significant ethnic Chinese and Indian populations, underpins the urgency of the government’s call. Additionally, Malaysia’s legal framework includes statutes prohibiting seditious remarks or insults directed at its monarchy, adding further weight to the push for online content regulation.

Why does it matter?

In recent months, Malaysia has been ramping up its scrutiny of online content amid accusations of a wavering commitment to safeguarding free speech within Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration. Despite refutations from the government regarding allegations of stifling diverse viewpoints, the government emphasises the necessity of protecting users from online harm. Meta and TikTok had previously implemented record restrictions on social media posts and accounts in Malaysia during the first half of 2023, coinciding with an uptick in government requests for content removal, as revealed by data from both companies published last year.