Malaysia to take legal action against Meta over ‘plague’ of harmful content

Iman Muttaqin Yusof
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia to take legal action against Meta over ‘plague’ of harmful content A smartphone with Facebook’s logo is seen in front of the company’s rebranded logo Meta in this illustration taken October 28, 2021. Malaysia’s government says it is taking legal action against Meta over its failure to address harmful content.
[Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters]

Malaysia’s government on Friday said it would take legal action against Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, for its failure to remove harmful content from the social media site despite repeated requests.

Facebook has been “plagued by a significant volume of undesirable content” related to issues of race, religion and royalty as well online gambling, defamation, impersonation and scam advertisements, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said.

The communications regulator said efforts to get Meta to cooperate on the issue had failed.

“Meta’s response, which has been sluggish and unsatisfactory, has not met the urgency of the matter and has led to increasing public concern and scrutiny,” it said in a statement.

Meta Malaysia did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BenarNews on the matter. The MCMC, meanwhile, has not yet responded to questions asking for more detail about the legal action.

Out of 5.3 billion global Internet users, 3.71 billion people use at least one Meta app every month – Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, or WhatsApp – according to Hootsuite, a Canadian social media management platform.

Statista estimates that more than 25 million people use Facebook in multicultural Malaysia, where race, religion and royalty are highly sensitive issues.

In April, the Royal Malaysian Police established a special task force to investigate insults related to these three matters.

Malaysia has instructed websites and social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, to remove content in the past. 

Earlier this month, the Malaysian government threatened to take action against Russian-owned messaging app Telegram due to misuse of the app, including for scams, pornography and illegal drug sales. 

However, Telegram has since agreed to collaborate with authorities following a meeting with the police and communications regulator. 

Social media companies have come under increasing scrutiny from the public and lawmakers across the globe in recent years, amid heated debate about the level of responsibility platforms should take to moderate content.

In Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam have passed legislation that requires social media companies to remove content deemed harmful within 24 hours. Singapore introduced regulations under its Online Safety Bill late last year that give authorities similar powers.

Rights campaigners say in many cases this has come at the expense of freedom of expression.

Authorities in Malaysia have arrested internet users for online criticism of the government, monarchy and Islam, according to Freedom House, a nonprofit based in Washington D.C.

In a quarterly report released in August last year, Meta said it had removed 596 Facebook accounts, 180 Pages, 11 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts for violating policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior. The Malaysian network was established to corrupt or manipulate public discourse and had links to the Royal Malaysia Police, Meta said.


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