Sunday, June 16, 2024

MALAYSIA, Stop asking TIK TOK to CENSOR our posts - Government must ACT only when laws broken and according to LAW.


Media Statement – 17/6/2024

Malaysian must stop asking ‘secretly’ or otherwise Tik Tok to remove post and delete accounts of Malaysians

Accord the alleged suspect the Right To Be Heard and get a Court Order before blocking posts(or accounts) that allegedly break Malaysian law

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is perturbed about the recent disclosure that Malaysian government had been acting violating Malaysian’s Freedom of Expression, whereby Malaysia had requested Tik Tok to remove posts, and delete Tik Tok accounts. In July – December 2023, there were 1,862 government requests, and for the whole of 2023, there were about 2202 such request, whereby Tik Tok did as Malaysia wanted in most cases.,

How many of these suspects responsible for these posts or accounts have even been investigated, charged in court, tried and convicted for crimes? If there are none or just a few,  then the Malaysian government’s action are deplorable, unjust and an abuse of power.

The Tik Tok’s recent Bi-Annual report on Government Removal Requests from July 1, 2023 – December 31, 2023, which was released 6/6/2024 revealed this anti-freedom of expression activities by the Government of Malaysia. [See  [] During this period, the rights of 1,862 persons (or maybe lesser) whose post were removed or accounts deleted, and the rights of other Tik Tok users, which is estimated to be about 20 million in Malaysia who were denied the right to read or consider these deleted posts.

Figures published in ByteDance's advertising resources indicate that TikTok had 28.68 million users aged 18 and above in Malaysia in early 2024.

No censorship or cancelation of accounts, directly or indirectly, without right to be heard

Were the persons whose post were deleted or accounts closed even made aware that the government caused it and the reason it did so?

Were the victims of these government’s violation of rights even accorded the right to be heard before the Malaysian government asked Tik Tok to remove user’s contents and/or delete accounts?

Or did the government simply HIDE from the victims the fact that it was the government itself that was behind this ‘censorship’ and deletion of their Tik Tok accounts or posts?

Just like detention without trial, these acts of censorship and discontinuing account are arbitrary decisions of the executive branch of government, possibly the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim or others – this is simply UNJUST and unacceptable in a democracy, more so by the co-called ‘reformist’ Pakatan Harapan-led government of Anwar Ibrahim.

Censorship should be after Court Order, a needed check and balance to prevent abuse?

Censorship or deletion of accounts SHOULD NEVER be done without a Court Order, whereby ex-parte orders and injunctions can speedily be obtained, and the suspected breaker of laws will also have the right and opportunity to challenge such interim orders in court. It is the Courts that should be empowered to decide

It is best that our independent Courts that determine what is against the law, not the Government or even the Prime Minister, before ordering any censorship.

The government should never alone, without a court order, censor or remove posts that are critical of government actions or positions, and Malaysia must always promote and defend freedom of expression, opinion and the press.

After all, despite call of many including the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), the non-repeal of the Sedition Act and Section 233 and other draconian provisions of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 to date may indicative of the kind of government that Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim wants? Sadly, this government continues to use these draconian laws.

After all, as an example, the Sedition Act unjustly criminalizes "seditious tendency", which is doing or expressing  something, even though it is true or a justified opinion, that causes just a tendency to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Government, amongst others. So this  can so easily be used to suppress opposition to government. Freedom of Expression and freedom of the press. Was these draconian laws like Sedition Act used to justify the government’s request to Tik Tok? Be transparent, and reveal it.

Presume that when your Website, Apps or Email is blocked, it is the Government that did it?

If not for the highlighting in this recent Tik Tok report, many would have been misled to believe that their rights have been violated simply because of the wrongdoings of Tik Tok, which would have been not accurate as it has now been revealed that Tik Tok violated our rights on the request of the Malaysian government itself. What would the government do if Tik Tok did not ‘obey’?  

The duty of any good democratic government is promoting freedom of expression, not suppress it by censorship either directly or indirectly. The government should be acting against Tik Tok and other Apps when they act preventing our freedom our expression by blocking posts and/or deleting user accounts. Can Malaysians even rely on the government to act against parties like Tik Tok and Facebook  that violate our freedom of expression?

When action taken against one’s post or account – Be Transparent

A very important question is whether the victims of censored posts and blocked accounts been informed by the government that it was the government’s doing, and the reason why their post/account has been blocked?

Even when a person is arrested, he/she is informed of the grounds of arrest. Thus, when a post or account is removed, should not the government tell the user the grounds for this action? Better still, maybe MCMC should on its website post information or grounds for removal of every post and/or user accounts. It is important that we know who did it to us, be it directly or indirectly.

The government should never HIDE or act in ‘secret’ violating people’s right to freedom of expression and opinion, whereby it is also a rights violation of the followers and recipients of these allegedly law-breaking posts. Be open, inform the alleged perpetrators of the law they broke, and why the government is censoring or blocking these posts/accounts.

Malaysia – Champion in 2023 with regard to government request to Tik Tok to ‘censor’

In July-December 2023, there were 6,789 government requests worldwide – 1,862 from Malaysia? In 2023, Malaysia embarrassingly emerged the global champion with  2,202 take-down requests to TikTok in 2023, whilst Australia was placed second with 651 requests. Interestingly Singapore only made 47 requests.

During the period from July to December 2023, according to Tik Tok’s report, the Malaysian government had requested Tik Tok to remove content or take down accounts 1,862 times, and Tik Tok complied with 87.8% of these requests.

Tik Tok and Apps should not be censoring at all, and certainly never on government’s request UNLESS there is a valid Court Order, and they should not blindly follow government’s request on the basis of laws been allegedly broken.

One should not blame a phone service provider for what people speak over the phone. Likewise, Tik Tok and other apps should not be blamed for posts of their users. Neither should online media be blamed for reader’s comments.

In 2023, under the PH-led government, the government made about with  2,202 take-down requests. Compared to 2022, number of requests for content removal was 29 times higher last year than the 75 requests made by Malaysia in 2022.(Vibes, 7/6/2024). This makes one wonder whether the previous Perikatan National government, before the current government came into power in November 2022 was so much better in terms of promoting and defending our right to freedom of expression.

Government to act only if law is broken, not because some community guidelines suspected to be violated

Malaysia made request that 1,862 post removal requests with regards 6,231 contents. Tik Tok took action for non-compliance with community guidelines violations (2,514), and for alleged local law violations (2,970).

With regard to accounts takedown, Malaysia requested for the taking down of 552 accounts, and Tik Tok did take down 368 accounts due to community guidelines violations and 103 accounts due to (local) law violations. Tik Tok level of compliance with Malaysian government request was 87.8%. []

Beside alleged violations of law excuse, the other excuse apparently used by Malaysian government was ‘community guidelines violations’ - What is this? Malaysia must act ONLY if the law is broken, and for no other reasons – including some ‘community guidelines violations.

After causing removal of post/account – were they charged and convicted?

From the data provided, there were 1,862 requests by the Malaysian government – and rightfully there would 1,862 investigations commenced, and at least 1,862 persons who were charged in court for breaking the law – but sadly, Malaysians have not seen 1,862(or less) persons being charged in court, tried and convicted. Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil must explain this.

So, is Malaysia only interested in censorship but not criminal prosecution of the alleged perpetrator of crime?  This is so wrong as a person’s human rights are being violated based on mere suspicions - not because Malaysian laws had been really broken.

What happens after Malaysia’s suspicion of law breaking is proven wrong?

After completed investigation, when it is shown that the post or the account did not violate any Malaysian law, a fact evident when the alleged suspect/perpetrator is not charged, tried and convicted, it is reasonable to say that the government made a mistake, and wrongfully violated people’s rights.

So in the past cases, what then did the Malaysian government who cause this human rights violations do? Did they take steps to ask Tik Tok to restore blocked posts and blocked accounts? One does not ‘penalize’ or deprive a person’s rights on the basis of suspicion that he/she has committed a crime against Malaysian laws, and after investigations shows that no crime has been committed, leave It and do not do anything to restore rights violated. Malaysia need to actively get Tik Tok to uncensor posts and unblock accounts. MADPET also believes that these users are entitled to an apology and compensation for the temporary deprivation of rights.

State of Human Rights in DECLINE

It sad to note that the state of human rights has been in the decline following Anwar Ibrahim becoming the Prime Minister in November 2022. Recently, Malaysia had a 34-rank fall in the Reporters Without Borders global press freedom index. Now, the government is violating one’s freedom of expression.

MADPET calls for an end of ‘secret’ censoring or blocking of accounts through request to service providers or app owners. If laws are broken, then the Malaysian government must act in a TRANSPARENT manner, and the alleged suspect must be informed of the grounds, and given the right to be heard.

MADPET calls for immediate revelation of how many of the persons with regard the 2202 government’s takedown request in 2023 to Tik Tok have been charged and convicted in court. If not convicted, the presumption of innocence applies, and it must be concluded that no law had been broken, and Malaysia had abused its power. Malaysian government must ask Tik Tok to restore the said suspects’ user accounts and post, and also publicly apologize for wrong actions of the government. Justly, the victims should be compensated for the government’s wrong actions. Did the government ensure that Tik Tok unblocked accounts, when completed investigation revealed no crime, and thus the owner was not charged and convicted in court? This is important if Malaysia truly believes in human rights of persons.

MADPET calls for an amendment of laws that will abolish arbitrary government or Ministry’s actions that may violate our human rights. It is safer to require the getting of a Court Order before any acts of censorship or blocking of accounts is done. The victim’s right to be informed and the right to be heard must be respected.

MADPET calls for Transparency, and ask Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil to reveal immediately the number of government removal request were made to other service providers or App owners, like Facebook, G-Mail, Google, Whats App, Telegram, Instagram, Twitter and other similar apps in 2023, and also in 2024? Details of violation of which law was broken must be revealed. Actions taken against alleged perpetrators of crime must also be revealed.

MADPET urges the Malaysian government to promote and respect peoples’ right to freedom of expression, opinion and also press freedom. No to CENSORSHIP, but charge and accord those who broke the law to a fair trial.

MADPET reiterates the call for the abolition of the Sedition Act 1948, Section 233 and similar draconian provisions in the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and other legislations that undermines or denies us our freedom of expression and also press freedom.


Charles Hector

For and on behalf of MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)


 TIK TOK - Government Removal Requests

Update:- Statement was carried by media (some mentioned below) 

Stop ‘secretly’ asking TikTok to remove content, govt told - Malaysiakini, 17/6/2024

MADPET: TikTok, other apps should not be censored unless there is a valid court order - Focus Malaysia, 17/6/2024

Stop asking in secret for content removal, Putrajaya told - Vibes, 17/6/2024

Malaysia tops among govts asking TikTok to remove content amid censorship concerns

Iman Muttaqin Yusof
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia tops among govts asking TikTok to remove content amid censorship concerns A user accesses TikTok on his smartphone in Kuala Lumpur, June 7, 2024.
[S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]

Malaysia topped the list of governments asking TikTok to remove content last year, company data released Friday showed, about a month after the country’s ranking plummeted on a global press freedom index.

Still, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim shrugged off such rankings and numbers last week, saying that being tough against racist and bigoted content in his multiethnic and multifaith country was more important.

The short-video platform TikTok received 2,202 government requests to remove a little more than 6,000 pieces of content, according to its bi-annual “Government Removal Requests Report” for 2023. Most of the requests – 1,862 of the total – came from July to December.

“In some cases, we will remove or restrict content reported by government agencies. We review requests made to us through the proper channels and where otherwise required by law,” TikTok’s report said. 

“If a request isn’t legally valid or doesn’t violate our guidelines or [local] laws, we will reject it. If a request violates applicable law but not the community guidelines, we may restrict content in that market,” it said. 

In 2023, TikTok took down content mentioned in half of the government’s requests based on violations of Malaysian laws. The company did not specify the legal or community guidelines said to have been violated according to each request, but added that it takes action based on its own guidelines and relevant local laws.

The number of requests for content removal was 29 times higher last year than the 75 requests in 2022.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a BenarNews request for details on the kinds of posts the government requested be taken down. 

BenarNews also reached out to Malaysia’s Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, the internet regulator, for details on why content removal requests were five times higher in the second half of 2023 compared with the first, and 29 times higher in 2023 compared to the previous year. Neither responded.

Malaysia held six state elections on Aug. 12, 2023. From October to November 2022, during the general election, the country saw a surge in hate speech and disinformation online, with hardline parties such as the Islamist PAS using racial rhetoric, studies showed.

In October 2023, the communications minister said that TikTok’s efforts to reduce the spread of fake news in Malaysia has been woefully inadequate and that he had told top management it needed to start following the country’s laws.

In April, he followed up by mandating that all social media platforms, including TikTok and Meta’s Facebook, tighten their policies on harmful content in a move to curb provocative posts on race, religion and royalty – referred to as the 3Rs in Malaysia.

Armed Malaysian troopers guard a truck of rice and other food to aid those affected by race riots in Kuala Lumpur, May 21, 1969. [AP]

The three issues are highly sensitive in the country where ethnic Malay Muslims comprise 70% of the population, ethnic Chinese 22.6% and ethnic Indians 6.6%. The population includes among other religions, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians.

Anwar has reiterated in recent months that his administration would not abide racism and anti-minority sentiment in any form.

Press freedom ranking

In May, when asked about Malaysia’s 34-rank fall in the press freedom index by global watchdog Reporters Without Borders, he said he wasn’t worried. 

“If you allow racism or fascism to flourish or religious bigotry to have a freehold in this country, then you must anticipate the possibility of friction, racial strife and religious disharmony,” he said in a speech during National Press Day that month.

“Of course, we have been criticized … I don’t mind. It doesn’t matter if you downgrade [our rank] because we are tough against the racists and the religious bigots. In my mind, saving this country and protecting the rights of the majority and the minorities is more important than getting high marks or international recognition.”

However, some critics have said that Anwar had been suppressing more than just content he believed caused racial and religious disharmony.

Since becoming prime minister in November 2022, an opposition member had been charged under a colonial-era Sedition Act. Senior journalists and observers also accused Malaysia’s internet regulator of excessive control over the media by censoring content it considered sensitive or critical of the government.

The regulator denied the accusations while Anwar defended the sedition charge last year saying that “when it comes to matters concerning the position and dignity of the rulers, this is something we should uphold and prevent from becoming an unhealthy political discourse.”

Josef Benedict of Asia Pacific for CIVICUS, an alliance of civil society organizations, said Malaysia's requests to take down content should be made more transparent.

“While some requests may be legitimate, intervening with or removing content affects the rights to freedom of expression and privacy, and can easily lead to censorship,” Josef told BenarNews. 

“Takedown orders must be necessary and proportionate, provided for by law, and in pursuit of a legitimate aim.”

An academic, Benjamin Loh, said many laws needed to be scrapped or changed.

“The core definitions under [the Sedition Act] that serve as the foundation for 3R enforcement are vague and unclear, which is why it desperately needs reforms to curb potential abuses of power by the government,” Loh, a senior lecturer in the School of Media and Communication at Taylor's University, told BenarNews.

“This is a little tricky, as parts of the race, religion, and royalty [issues] are indeed in need of regulation due to the presence of groups that engage in hate speech.” - Benar News, 7/6/2024

Report reveals surging social media censorship in Malaysia

Country behind more than a quarter of TikTok take-down demands in the world in last half of 2023.

Updated 12 hours ago · Published on 15 Jun 2024 9:24AM

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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, Vibes


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