Malaysia’s government said Friday it will take legal action against Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, for failing to remove “undesirable” and harmful content from its social media platform.
The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission said Facebook has recently been plagued by a “a significant volume of undesirable content” relating to sensitive issues on race, religion and royalty as well as defamation, impersonation, online gambling and scam advertisements.
The commission said repeated efforts to reach out to Meta to remove harmful content were of no avail.
“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. “As there is no sufficient cooperation from Meta, MCMC has no option but to take definitive steps or legal action against Meta as a measure to ensure that people are secure and protected in the physical sphere.”
The commission said it will not tolerate abuse of online platforms and telecommunications services for “malicious cyber activities, phishing, or any content that threatens racial stability, social harmony and defies respect for the rulers.” Malaysia has nine ethnic Malay state rulers, whose role is largely ceremonial but held in esteem among the country’s Malay majority.
Earlier this month, the government warned of action against Telegram after it refused to cooperate over complaints regarding content and misuse of the app, including the sale of pornographic materials, drugs and investment scams. Officials were quoted by local media as saying Telegram scams have cost Malaysians some 45 million ringgit ($9.6 million) since January 2020.
Telegram initially said it wouldn’t participate in “any form of political censorship” but later agreed to work with local authorities to curb illegal activities.
The action against online platforms coincides with six crucial state elections that must be held no later than the end of August. While state polls do not affect the federal government, they are closely watched as they will be the first test of public support for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government that was formed after a fractious general election in November.
Anwar faces strong opposition from the Islamic-dominated National Alliance, which got unexpectedly strong support from Malays in the November election. The National Alliance, which is hoping for another big showing in the six state elections, has been aggressively using social media to slam Anwar’s government.