Report reveals surging social media censorship in Malaysia

Malaysia made 1,862 demands to TikTok to take down content in the second half of last year, a report shows. –  The Vibes file pic, June 15, 2024.

MALAYSIA made 1,862 demands to TikTok to take down content in the second half of last year, 5.5 times the number six months before, Straits Times reports.

Quoting TikTok’s biannual transparency report, it said Malaysia made 2,202 take-down requests to TikTok in 2023, a more than 30-fold increase from 70 in 2022, and the most number of such requests from a country in the world.

Australia came in second with with 651 requests. In Southeast Asia, Indonesia was in second place with 351, and Singapore third with 47.

Malaysia alone was responsible for over a quarter of the world’s removal demands in this period.

TikTok did not provide details of the content it was asked to restrict in Malaysia. It said it would only take down content that breached community guidelines or local laws.

A similar trend was also observed on Meta platforms, which owns Facebook and Instagram.

Meta reported that 8,600 content restrictions were applied in Malaysia last year, a 15-fold jump from 553 in 2022.

Quoting sources in the social media industry, the report said demands for restrictions are continuing to grow in 2024 as the authorities deploy personnel to trawl platforms for offensive content.

“A vast majority (of the requests for take-downs) are political in nature. Over 90% possibly,” said a person involved in the content restriction process.

Meta said in its transparency report for the second half of 2023 that it restricted access to over 4,700 posts reported by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission.

This includes “hate speech based on religion in violation of Penal Code Section 298A, criticism of the government, and racially or religiously divisive content and bullying,” which violated the controversial Communications and Multimedia Act sections 233 and 211.

These sections criminalise content which is “obscene, indecent, false, menacing or offensive with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass” anyone.

Critics, including government MPs, have called for the law to be amended as the ambiguous wording is open to abuse. – June 15, 2024.

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