Malaysia Set to Pursue Legal Action Against Meta for Hosting Harmful Content
KUALA LUMPUR – In a significant move, Malaysia has announced its intention to take legal action against Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook (NASDAQ:META), for its failure to remove objectionable posts. This marks the strongest measure taken by the country thus far to address the issue of such content.
Following last year’s closely contested national election, ethnic tensions have been on the rise. Since assuming power in November, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration has been committed to curbing what it deems as inflammatory posts pertaining to race and religion.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission issued a statement stating that Facebook has been grappling with a substantial influx of undesirable content, encompassing themes such as race, royalty, religion, defamation, impersonation, online gambling, and scam advertisements.
Despite repeated requests, Meta has allegedly not taken sufficient action, necessitating legal recourse to promote cybersecurity accountability and safeguard consumers.
At present, Meta has not provided an immediate response to the matter, and the commission has also refrained from commenting on the specific legal actions that might be pursued.
Race and religion are complex topics in Malaysia, a nation predominantly comprised of Muslim ethnic Malays, alongside notable ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.
Conversations surrounding the country’s esteemed royal family are equally sensitive, with negative remarks potentially falling under sedition laws.
This action against Facebook emerges just weeks ahead of regional elections in six states, which are expected to pit Anwar’s multi-ethnic coalition against a conservative Malay Muslim alliance.
As Malaysia’s largest social media platform, Facebook boasts an estimated 60% user penetration among the country’s population of 33 million.
Globally, major social media companies, including Meta, Google’s YouTube (NASDAQ:GOOGL), and TikTok, often face regulatory scrutiny regarding the content shared on their platforms.
In Southeast Asia, several governments have frequently demanded the removal of specific content.
In 2020, Vietnam went so far as to threaten Facebook with a shutdown unless it adhered to government pressure to increase censorship of local political content on its platform. Last year, it was reported that social media platforms operating in Vietnam had already removed over 3,200 posts and videos during the first quarter, as they contained false information and violated the nation’s laws.
Indonesia witnessed a similar situation in 2019 when Facebook took down numerous local accounts, pages, and groups associated with a fake news syndicate.