Calls widen to regulate social media

PETALING JAYA: Industry experts are calling for social media platforms to be regulated to make them more accountable for fraudulent content, arguing that despite its promises, social media has turned into a hotbed of false advertisements and fake news.

Universiti Sains Malaysia cybersecurity expert Assoc Prof Dr Selvakumar Manickam said amendments should be made to the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) to regulate platform providers to force them to take a more dedicated stance on taking down non-compliant content from their platforms.

“Section 211 and 233 of the CMA are mainly aimed at punishing the individual or entity posting the offensive content.

“However, the platform provider is not held responsible in any way for content posted by its members, nor does it (the CMA) provide guidelines that platforms must follow,” he said.

Sections 211 and 233 of the CMA regulate offensive online content, with both carrying a maximum fine of RM50,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both, upon conviction.

Possible amendments, Selva-kumar said, is to make it compulsory for all social media companies to appoint local officers to handle legal requests and complaints regarding content deemed inappropriate, misleading or false.

Privacy laws could also be amended, enabling authorities to obtain information on suspects who commit serious crimes through social media platforms such as scams or those who spread extremist content, he added.

Fong Choong Fook, executive chairman of cybersecurity testing firm LGMS Bhd, said regulations on social media platforms were lacking globally, adding that platforms had too much freedom, which ended up being abused by users at times.

On cyberspace threats, he said this was seen through the prominence of scam advertisements on social media platforms.

“To curb this, regulators need more power (to regulate), and for social media platforms to work closely with regulators.

“Right now, there may not be a very mature framework or engagement model with social media platforms, resulting in the abundance of scam advertisements,” he said.

He also noted how physical advertisements required various approval processes, which was in stark contrast to social media advertisements, which only needed approval by the platform provider.

Gerakan Media Merdeka spokesperson Radzi Razak said a dedicated governing body should be formed to ensure social media companies comply with Malaysia’s requirements and laws.

“An oversight committee can be set up to hold social media companies and platform providers accountable for content posted on their platforms.

“This forces companies to be more transparent in their operations and to subject them to greater public scrutiny, which is how regulation should be done,” he said.

He stressed that while regulation of media platform providers was necessary, the government should be careful about giving too much power to regulators as it could end up being abused by corrupt individuals for personal gain.

Meanwhile, Yayasan Digital Malaysia stressed that while stricter laws and penalties may be necessary, they should not infringe on people’s right to express themselves.

“Regulating social media can be challenging as it involves balancing different interests.

“Banning platforms entirely may also not be a feasible option in Malaysia as it may not effectively address the root of the problem,” it said in a statement to The Star.

The foundation said the government could instead explore alternative solutions such as working with social media companies to remove harmful content while preserving freedom of expression.

“A multifaceted approach could be taken for cybersecurity. This includes educating the public on cybersecurity best practices, investing in technology and infrastructure to protect against cyberthreats, and collaborating with other countries to address cross-border issues,” it added.

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