Blocking Facebook a futile exercise, say advocates


PETALING JAYA: There is no point in blocking access to Facebook as users will find alternative to connect to the social media website or even use other platforms.

Social media advocate Niki Cheong believes that Facebook is not the cause of "abuse and seditious postings".

"People are. Blocking Facebook won't solve this problem because people will find different avenues instead - other social networks, blogs, websites and others.

"Now we have apps like which even allow you to post updates anonymously," he said citing the case of China where its citizens found other platforms to connect online.

Existing laws and the proposed Harmony Bills can be used to tackle the cases of abuse and alleged sedition on social media websites, says National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) member Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

"We can also debate with articulation, if there are issues raised which we are not in agreement with."

Saifuddin, who stands firm against the blocking of Facebook in Malaysia even started a #jangantutupfb hashtag.

"Facebook, like many technologies, has its strengths and weaknesses but most users know how to use it with wisdom."

Crucially, Facebook is already a way of life, he added.

"Some rely on it for work and business. It is a new platform for wider social and political participation and deliberation. Closing it will make the Government look very bad and archaic."

Social activist Ally Hazran Hashim, who has used the platform to foster unity in the community, agrees.

When some irresponsible groups swamped churches with banners and messages of hate earlier this year, the training consultant used Facebook to rally people to gather at his hometown church, the Holy Family Church in Kajang, to show solidarity.

"The encouraging response on Facebook (including Likes) when I organised the 'Peace n Love' offering between Muslims and Christians in Kajang a few months ago, is a good example of how the social media network can be used for good. Blocking FB is not advisable in the 21st century," he said, pointing out that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has been set up to monitor all activities online and could take action against any abuses.

A concern, Cheong said, would be the isolation of Malaysia from the rest of the world.

"It will set a generation of Malaysians apart from their global counterparts - it will affect networking abilities, sharing possibilities and more.

"Globally, Facebook is the de facto social network - not being on us will mean that many young Malaysians will lose out when and if they find themselves needing to negotiate their lives in a globalised world," Cheong noted.

Then, there is the negative association that blocking Facebook will give Malaysia, not to mention making us the laughing stock of the world.

"Look at the list of countries that have banned Facebook - Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, China and Syria among others. Do we want to be listed alongside these countries just because 2,000 out of millions are not happy?

"How will we achieve developed nation status if we are going to get caught up with these issues instead of asking why people are making these comments in the first place - or the context in which they are being made?" said Cheong.

Freedom of expression advocate Masjaliza Hamzah concurred.

"If we block FB, it would further out as Internet fools. The fact that this (proposal) comes from the same Ministry (Communications and Multimedia) that a few years ago proposed that a social media council be set up, shows  a misunderstanding of what it is and how difficult it is to control," said Masjaliza, who is also the former executive director of the Centre for Independent Journalism.

She believes that any attempt to block Malaysia from the popular social network will be futile.

"They can try, but they will fail. Even if they block Facebook, many will find alternative access to it," she said.

On Friday, it was reported that the Government would study the possibility of barring access to Facebook as there had been many cases of misuse.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek reportedly said that the Government would be gathering feedback from the public, as the action would be quite radical.

He said that the 2,000 reports against Facebook postings received by the Ministry was small compared to the number of users in Malaysia, which is estimated to be about 15 million.

Related stories:

Government to study if Facebook ban needed, says Shabery

Netizens irked by government proposal to study ban on Facebook

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