MCMC investigates dating site Sugarbook for alleged 'marketing gimmick'

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has banned access to sugar daddy dating site Sugarbook and raised concerns about the platform carrying out a "marketing gimmick". According to news reports, the website was banned yesterday and a quick check by A+M found that Sugarbook's website is still inaccessible to Malaysians.

MCMC said in a statement that Sugarbook claims more Malaysian women, especially university students, are signing up as sugarbabies on its site. "Allegations such as those found in the marketing gimmick need to be investigated for confirmation, as user profiles can be manipulated at will for different purposes including to deceive victims," it said.

Aside from Sugarbook, MCMC also said users should be aware of other applications that offer dating services as they can be easily deceived and be victims of cybercrime. "The risk of love scam will increase with the risk of malware and spyware, personal information leakage and sexual harassment," MCMC said. Hence, it advises users of such applications to always be careful when providing personal information on social media, especially when connecting with strangers.

MCMC said it will continue to monitor and investigate Sugarbook alongside PDRM, and will take action against users and owners of the platform if it is found to be committing activities that violate Malaysian laws. "If there is an element of prostitution, further action will be taken by the PDRM. Parents and guardians are advised to constantly monitor the online behaviour of the child under their care," MCMC said. A+M has reached out to Sugarbook for comment.

According to statistics from Sugarbook in 2020, there was a 40% increase in website traffic from Malaysia last year during the lockdown, followed by 28% in Singapore and 8% in the US. Meanwhile, Russia (5%) and the UK (4%) also saw slight increases. Sugarbook also said in a press release previously that there was a 90% spoke in messages exchanged during last year's Valentine's Day.

Sugarbook found itself in the spotlight two years ago after city council DBKL labelled its billboard ad "sensitive and pornographic", demanding its removal. According to multiple media reports including New Straits Times and Malay Mail, the top half of the ad showed a young girl smiling next to an elderly man and the bottom half was in red with the words "Hey sugar, upgrade your love life!".

DBKL it came across complaints on social media regarding Sugarbook's ad and after investigation, found that the billboard belonged to Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan (YWP). The ads were not approved by DBKL or YWP, the statement added. Sugarbook founder and CEO Darren Chan, however, told A+M that the advice given to the company by its ad publishing company was that the ads were approved so the company went with it. "We were led to believe that this approval that I have attached, is the only approval needed to proceed. As such, it is clear that we were wrongly advised," he added.

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