Health Ministry to meet Facebook over blocked hotline on WhatsApp

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 19 Jun 2019

Logo of WhatsApp, the popular messaging service seen here on a smartphone. - AFP

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry will soon meet with Facebook over reports that its subsidiary WhatsApp has blocked the ministry’s smoking ban hotline on its app.

A hotline service on WhatsApp had been set up by the ministry to clamp down on those violating the smoking ban in restaurants and eateries.

The hotline with the number 010-8608949 was created to facilitate complaints by members of the public who could report errant smokers directly to the ministry. 

Members of the public are also able to send in their complaints with photographic evidence of those who were flouting the smoking ban.

However messages sent to the hotline currently are unable to go through, as there is no “double tick” on WhatsApp to show they have been received.

It is believed that the privacy complaints regarding the hotline was the reason why the number was being blocked.

“Privacy infringement is part of the WhatsApp terms and conditions. We are now consulting our legal experts to see how we can provide this complaints channel on WhatsApp without being accused of breaking the rules,” a source from the Health Ministry told the news portal Free Malaysia Today.

In an immediate response, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said they will be having a discussion with Facebook representatives about the matter.

“The Health Ministry will be having a discussion with the company as soon as possible to find a suitable solution,” he said in a press statement Wednesday (June 19).

He added that the purpose of the hotline was to enable the public to make reports to the Health Ministry should there be any smokers lighting up in any public places that have been declared no-smoking zones.

“Besides that, the hotline was provided as a means to make it easier for the public to get information, make enquiries or obtain advice about the matter,” he said.

Under the smoking ban which started on January 1 this year, smokers can only light up 3m away from an eatery.

The Health Ministry recently extended the six-month educational enforcement period to the end of the year.

Starting Jan 1 next year, smokers who violate the smoking ban can face compounds of up to RM250.

Offenders who fail to settle the compound can be hauled to court and slapped with a RM10,000 fine or two years’ jail.

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