Malaysia Goes After Facebook Owner Meta Over Online Gambling

Posted on: June 23, 2023, 06:56h. 

Last updated on: June 23, 2023, 09:53h.

The Internet provides a unique service that doesn’t follow geographic borders. What may be acceptable in one country, such as online gambling, may not be elsewhere. Malaysia expects online content providers to follow its laws, and plans on driving the point home by using Facebook owner Meta as an example.

Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, at night
Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, at night. Malaysia is preparing legal action against Meta for not stopping gambling content and other unacceptable activity in the country. (Image: Blogspot)

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) announced Friday that it will take legal action against Meta. The government agency said the platform’s content violates the country’s standards protecting race, the crown, and religion.

The MCMC said in a statement that apart from those infringements, Facebook is also plagued with harmful content. This includes online gambling, which is still illegal in the country, scams, and fraudulent advertisements. The agency hasn’t specified what type of legal action it’s considering.

Malaysia Unfriends Facebook

The MCMC has previously contacted Meta to take down its undesired content, according to the agency’s statement. The company’s response has been “sluggish” and “unsatisfactory,” with executives reportedly not taking the issue seriously enough.

After repeated attempts at finding a resolution failed, the MCMC determined there was no other alternative but legal action. It said the action is necessary to instill accountability for cybersecurity and to empower user protection against harmful content, including fraudulent activities.

The agency said it won’t make any compromise when it comes to the country’s perception of misuse of online and telecommunications platforms, networks, or online facilities. Malicious activity, dubious content, or any content that undermines racial stability, social harmony, or insults the royal family is grounds for legal action.

Facebook is reportedly the go-to social media platform in Malaysia. Some 60% of the population — around 19.8 million people —  have a registered account, according to the government.

Meta shouldn’t feel like it’s been singled out. Malaysia has also gone after other social media companies and communications channels, with Telegram still under fire for not cooperating with the MCMC.

Regime Change Leads to Tighter Control

The MCMC appointed Tan Sri Mohamad Salim Fateh Din as its new chair this past March, a position he’ll hold for two years. He was already serving as the interim chair, which gave him a strong footing upon which to shape the agency.

With his appointment confirmed, the MCMC launched a larger review of the regulatory framework for digital content. That review began under the chair’s leadership. But an increase in consumer complaints and fraud has propelled the issue to the front lines.

Mohamad Salim said that as a supervisory body for industrial surveillance concentrated in Malaysia, his party would also review the supervisory approach to carry out a higher level of supervision through existing statutory instruments. He said this includes a review into the exclusion of some activities rather than using criminal restrictions and punitive directives.

He added that industry partners from Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia were also in the process of passing similar laws for the purpose of overseeing surveillance and investigating fraudulent activity on some platforms.

Data from the Royal Malaysia Police Department’s Commercial Crime Investigation Service shows an increase in fraudulent activity through online channels like Facebook, Telegram, and others. From 2021 to this past April, Malaysians reported losses of RM1.2 billion (US$256.56 million).