Fb-owner Meta (META.O) and China’s TikTok restricted a file variety of social media posts and accounts in Malaysia within the first six months of 2023, information printed by the companies confirmed, amid a bounce in authorities requests to take away content material.
Malaysia Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration, which got here to energy in November 2022 on a reformist platform, has confronted accusations of backpedaling on its guarantees to guard freedom of speech amid elevated scrutiny of on-line content material in current months.
The federal government has denied allegations of stifling dissent on-line, saying it wished to curb provocative posts that contact on race, faith and royalty.
Between January and June this 12 months, Meta restricted about 3,100 pages and posts on its Fb and Instagram platforms from being seen by customers in Malaysia as a result of they had been reported to have allegedly violated native legal guidelines, in keeping with information printed within the agency’s twice-yearly Transparency Report this month.
The determine was six occasions greater than within the earlier half-year interval and the very best because the firm started reporting content material restrictions in Malaysia in 2017.
Malaysia’s communications regulator stated in an announcement late on Friday that its efforts to request the removing of content material on social media platforms had been aimed toward defending customers from “the significant increase of online harms, and not about stifling diverse views”.
Meta stated between July 2022 and June 2023, it restricted entry to greater than 3,500 gadgets in response to stories by Malaysia’s communications regulator and different authorities businesses.
The content material included criticism of the federal government and posts that allegedly violated legal guidelines on unlawful playing, hate speech, racially or religiously divisive content material, bullying and monetary scams, Meta’s report stated.
Quick video platform TikTok, in an analogous report issued final month, stated it had obtained 340 requests from the Malaysian authorities to take away or limit content material between January and June 2023, affecting 890 posts and accounts.
TikTok eliminated or restricted 815 of these for violating native legal guidelines or the platform’s neighborhood pointers – the very best in a six-month interval because it started reporting requests from Malaysia in 2019, the info confirmed. It was triple the quantity TikTok eliminated within the second half of 2022.
Malaysia made extra requests to limit content material on TikTok than another authorities in Southeast Asia, the info confirmed. Meta didn’t publish the whole variety of authorities requests it obtained for content material restrictions.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Fee stated on Friday its statistics confirmed a 24-fold improve in dangerous content material on social media platforms, rising to 25,642 in 2023 from 1,019 the earlier 12 months, and together with scams, unlawful gross sales, playing, pretend information and hate speech.
The fee didn’t present a breakdown on the allegedly dangerous content material discovered on every platform.
Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil stated this week the communications regulator typically acted upon complaints from unusual customers, denying allegations that he had requested the company to hunt the removing of posts essential of him on social media.
Race and faith are delicate points in Malaysia, which has a predominantly Muslim ethnic Malay inhabitants however important ethnic Chinese language and Indian minorities. It additionally has legal guidelines prohibiting seditious remarks or insults towards its monarchy.
Fahmi stated in October that TikTok had not finished sufficient to curb defamatory or deceptive content material on its platform and accused it of failing to adjust to some native legal guidelines. TikTok stated it might take proactive measures to deal with the problems raised.
The federal government additionally threatened to take authorized motion towards Meta for failing to behave towards “undesirable” content material however dropped the plan after conferences with the corporate.
Free speech group Article 19 denounced the removing of posts essential of the federal government and expressed issues over its elevated requests to limit content material, warning that it might stifle official free speech and expression.
“It is never permissible to prohibit expression solely because it casts a critical view on social issues, public figures or government institutions,” stated Nalini Elumalai, its senior Malaysia programme officer.