Malaysian authorities mull tightening of regulations for social media

Malaysian authorities have declared intentions to tighten regulations on social media, looking to crack down on social media and online abuse.

Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said that amendments would be made to the
Communications and Multimedia Act with regards to this.

According to a report on The Malaysian Insider, AhmadCheek said that amendments are set for October this year or early next year. The move comes as The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) saw a 5% increase in Internet abuse from 15% and 20% last year. The article also stated that by July last year there were 1,457 cases involving the misuse and abuse of social media. This is compared to 2,137 cases from January to December in 2013.

"I agree that the laws needed to be reviewed, this is why we are looking at the current legislations comprehensively because the current ones are from 1998," Ahmad Shabery was quoted saying on the article.

Tripti Lochan, CEO VML Malaysia and the region, which works with clients such as Resorts World Genting in Malaysia said that the article touches on a sensitive global issue but will probably not impact the marketing and advertising industry greatly.

"Internet abuse is on the rise, and its great to see that the Malaysian government is stepping in with changes, to suit the new age we all live in," said Lochan. She added that as the law seems to indicate that the measures point more towards individuals as opposed to brands engaging through digital means, it will most likely not affect brands, or the marketing industry as a whole.

"As long as brands and their agencies continue to engage responsibly its hard to see any fallout that will affect the industry," said Lochan.

Meanwhile late last year the Malaysian Home Ministry claimed that it was working closely with the MCMC to set up firewalls to ensure censored content does not get viewed by Malaysians. The move has pulled in much criticism, with many calling it regressive.

Lion & Lion’s head of technology, Simon Stubben had then said that digital social media is very important today because of how it is being used and the speed it is being used at. He added that digital marketing is an open media and “restraining the internet may cause some setbacks for agencies and brands to reach customers.”

“It is a shame that control is being enforced to the Internet here by gagging the freedom of speech. This country implemented the freedom of speech, hence, they should not be limiting the Internet,” said Stubben.

Meanwhile, editor of The Malaysian Insider Jahabar Sadiq also said that censorship of content will cost Malaysians not only their basic freedoms, but also hurt an industry that is global in nature and one that can be as competitive as others around the world.