Malaysia urges TikTok and Meta to monitor harmful social media content News
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Malaysia urges TikTok and Meta to monitor harmful social media content

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) published a joint statement with the Royal Malaysian Police on Tuesday stating that the government has required online media platforms such as TikTok and Meta to tighten their harmful content policy.

In the statement, the MCMC stressed that they are working with other government departments and enforcement agencies to combat the dissemination of sensitive content relating to “3R,” which are race, religion and royalty. The MCMC observed an increase in harmful content recently, with a total of 51,638 cases that the authorities have required online social media platforms to conduct further actions within the first three months of this year. In 2023, the number of cases that attracted the government’s attention was 42,904 throughout the whole year.

The government required TikTok and Facebook—one of the platforms owned by Meta—to provide a detailed improvement plan in monitoring sensitive content relating to 3R, scams and illegal online gambling. The plan must be in accordance with the platform’s community guidelines and Malaysian laws. The government also asked social media platforms to ensure that children are not influenced by harmful content by enforcing the minimum age verification requirement.

One of the 3Rs at issue, religion, has recently been at the center of several controversies in Malaysia. Local media covered the recent development of a Malaysian convenience store chain selling socks with the word “Allah” printed on them. Not only the owner and the supplier were charged with “deliberately wounding the religious feelings of Muslims” under the Malaysian Penal Code Section 298, but the convenience stores also suffered from several targeted attacks with petrol bombs.

Malaysia is an ethnically and religiously diverse country, with a dominant population of Muslim and Bumiputera (Malays and Indigenous peoples). The Malaysian Constitution provides for religious freedoms “that could be practised in peace and harmony.” According to the US Department of State 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom, Malaysian law prioritized the protection of Sunni Islam. The US report observed the selective prosecution of blasphemy against Islam while criticisms of other faiths were ignored. Forced conversions of Islam among the Indigenous population were also recorded.

Human rights organizations have questioned the use of blasphemy law, including Penal Code section 298, as arbitrary and open to abuse. They warned that prosecutions under blasphemy law could amount to the violations of rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and equality and discrimination. These are commonly recognized as principles embedded in customary international law, including within the United Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.