Malaysia has called on Facebook operator Meta and short video service TikTok to enhance their monitoring efforts on their platforms amidst a surge in harmful social media content.

In the initial quarter of 2024, the Malaysian government referred a staggering 51,638 cases to social media platforms, including Meta and TikTok, for further action. This marks a significant increase from the 42,904 cases reported throughout the entirety of last year, as disclosed in a joint statement by the communications regulator and Malaysian police.

Although specifics regarding the types of reported content were not divulged, authorities emphasised the necessity of restricting the dissemination of harmful online content, particularly those touching upon sensitive topics such as race, religion, and royalty.

Both TikTok, under the ownership of China’s ByteDance, and Meta were urged to tackle content indicative of coordinated inauthentic behaviour, as well as those linked to financial scams and illegal online gambling, stated the regulatory agencies.

Issues surrounding race and religion carry significant sensitivity in Malaysia, a nation predominantly inhabited by Muslim ethnic Malays, alongside substantial Chinese and Indian minorities. The country also upholds laws prohibiting seditious remarks or insults against its monarchy.

The Malaysian government’s heightened scrutiny of online content in recent months has drawn attention, with concerns raised over Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration allegedly reneging on its pledges to safeguard free speech. Denying allegations of stifling diverse viewpoints, authorities have maintained the necessity of shielding users from online harms.

Earlier data from Meta and TikTok illustrated a surge in content restrictions in Malaysia during the initial six months of 2023, coinciding with an uptick in government requests for content removal.