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Malaysia reports increase in requests to restrict social media content




By Reuters | Updated: April 9, 2024

KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 (Reuters) – Malaysia urged Facebook operator Meta (META.O) and short video service TikTok to step up monitoring on their platforms, it said on Tuesday, with the government reporting sharp increases in harmful social media content this year.

In the first three months of 2024, the government referred 51,638 cases to social media platforms, including Meta and TikTok, for further action, up from 42,904 cases recorded in the whole of last year, the communications regulator and Malaysian police said in a joint statement.

The agencies did not specify what types of content were reported, but said the move was part of efforts to restrict the spread of harmful content online, particularly those related to race, religion and royalty.

TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, and Meta were also urged to curb content indicating coordinated inauthentic behaviour, or related to financial scams and illegal online gambling, the agencies said.

Race and religion are sensitive issues in Malaysia, which has a mainly Muslim ethnic Malay majority, alongside significant ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities. It also has laws prohibiting seditious remarks or insults against its monarchy.

Malaysia has increased scrutiny of online content in recent months, with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration facing accusations of backpedaling on its promises to protect free speech. The government has denied allegations of stifling diverse views, saying it needed to protect users from online harms.

Meta and TikTok restricted a record number of social media posts and accounts in Malaysia in the first six months of 2023, amid an increase in government requests to remove content, data published by the firms last year showed.

© Thomson Reuters 2024