In a significant move, Malaysia has announced its decision to pursue legal action against Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook, for its failure to remove content deemed “undesirable.” This marks the strongest measure the country has taken to address such contentious posts.
Since coming into power in November, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration has been committed to curbing provocative content related to race and religion, following a closely contested election that heightened ethnic tensions.
Legal Action Initiated Against Meta Platforms Over Failure to Remove “Undesirable” Posts
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission expressed concern over the substantial amount of undesirable content on Facebook, encompassing issues surrounding race, royalty, religion, defamation, impersonation, online gambling, and scam advertisements.
Despite repeated requests, Meta allegedly did not take adequate action, leading to the conclusion that legal intervention is necessary to ensure cybersecurity accountability and protect consumers’ interests. Meta has yet to provide a comment regarding the matter.
In response to inquiries about the impending legal action, the commission clarified in a Saturday statement that offenses under Malaysia’s Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 could include the abuse of network facilities or application services. Furthermore, officials of the company may face charges for willfully facilitating criminal activity if prompt action is not taken.
Given Malaysia’s diverse demographic makeup, with a majority of Muslim ethnic Malays and significant ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, issues pertaining to race and religion are highly sensitive. Criticizing the country’s revered royals can also lead to charges under sedition laws.
The legal action against Facebook comes just weeks ahead of elections in six states, which are anticipated to witness a contest between Anwar’s multi-ethnic coalition and a conservative Malay Muslim alliance.
With an estimated 60 percent of the country’s 33 million population holding registered accounts, Facebook serves as Malaysia’s largest social media platform.
Globally, major social media firms like Meta, Google’s YouTube, and TikTok often face regulatory scrutiny regarding the content shared on their platforms.
Across Southeast Asia, several governments have frequently requested the removal of specific content. Vietnam, for instance, threatened to shut down Facebook in 2020 if the platform did not comply with government demands to censor local political content. Last year, social media platforms operating in Vietnam removed over 3,200 posts and videos in the first quarter for containing false information and violating the country’s laws.
Similarly, in Indonesia in 2019, Facebook took down numerous local accounts, pages, and groups linked to a fake news syndicate.