PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) does not see micro-blogging site Twitter’s new policy to remove messages from specific countries by request as a move to censor content.
“We see this as a move by Twitter to recognise that despite the borderless nature of the Internet there is a clear need to accept that the Internet does not operate in a legal vacuum,” said Datuk Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi, chairman of the industry regulator.
He said the issue has been one of the cornerstones of the debates surrounding the World Summit on Information Society for years and is still very much a topic of discussion globally at the Internet governance forums organised by the United Nations.
Twitter recently announced that it will remove a tweet within a specific country if asked to do so in accordance with the law in that country, while having the tweet remain visible in other countries.
Previously, a deleted tweet would not be visible in any country.
The move has sparked off a global outrage, with many criticising it as a sign that Twitter is conceding to attacks on free speech, especially in countries with repressive regimes.
In response, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo stated that it is meant to be a transparent way to handle government requests for the removal of certain content and that it does not mean the company is proactively monitoring tweets.
He added that the policy is designed for Twitter to exist in certain countries, and not as a means of censorship.
To date, Thailand has become the first government to publicly endorse Twitter’s controversial decision.
Thai Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap has said that the new policy is a “constructive development” and praised Twitter for “co-operating with governments to make sure basic rights are not violated through the use of social media.”
Malaysians have mixed opinions on the Twitter move.
Public relations practitioner Nahri Agus Salim doesn’t think the new policy will have an adverse affect on his experience with the social-media platform.
“What Twitter has essentially done is to say that ‘we’ll respect local laws,’ which is fair. Typically, I don’t think many of us are breaking the law on Twitter,” he said.
Another Twitter user, Biresh Vrajlal, 37, disagrees with the policy. He believes it is counter-productive to free speech.
“It sounds more like SOPA in the United States. People should be held accountable for what they tweet, but not be censored,” said the public relations and social media manager.
SOPA — the Stop Online Piracy Act — is a US bill aimed at expanding the ability of US law enforcement to halt the stealing of copyrighted intellectual property on the Web (http://1.usa.gov/tviB84).
Opponents of the bill said the proposed act is a threat to free speech, and would enable the law enforcement agencies to block access to whole web-domains if infringing material was found on just one webpage.
Emily Tan, 29, a Malaysian writer based in Hong Kong, believes the new Twitter policy adds no more censorship than what every other social-media platform already does in Malaysia.
“I don’t agree with the move but Twitter is a business and being banned from entire countries isn’t good for business,” she said.
Both Biresh and Tan said that such content restrictions may result in migrations from Twitter to other platforms, such as Google+.
“It would be a shame for people to walk away from the social-media platform that enabled new freedoms in so many nations,” Tan said.