Meta, TikTok report jump in Malaysia govt requests to remove content in 2023

Malaysia made more requests to restrict content on TikTok than any other government in Southeast Asia. (Getty/File)
Malaysia made more requests to restrict content on TikTok than any other government in Southeast Asia. (Getty/File)
Short Url
Updated 15 December 2023
Follow

Meta, TikTok report jump in Malaysia govt requests to remove content in 2023

Meta, TikTok report jump in Malaysia govt requests to remove content in 2023
  • News sparked concerns about freedom of speech, rise in scrutiny of online content
  • Removed content included criticism of the government, posts on illegal gambling, hate speech, racially or religiously divisive content

KUALA LUMPUR: Facebook-owner Meta and China’s TikTok restricted a record number of social media posts and accounts in Malaysia in the first six months of 2023, data published by the firms showed, amid a jump in government requests to remove content.
Malaysia Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration, which came to power in November 2022 on a reformist platform, has faced accusations of backpedaling on its promises to protect freedom of speech amid increased scrutiny of online content in recent months.
The government has denied allegations of stifling dissent online, saying it wanted to curb provocative posts that touch on race, religion and royalty.
Between January and June this year, Meta restricted about 3,100 pages and posts on its Facebook and Instagram platforms from being viewed by users in Malaysia because they were reported to have allegedly violated local laws, according to data published in the firm’s twice-yearly Transparency Report this month.
The figure was six times higher than in the previous half-year period and the highest since the company began reporting content restrictions in Malaysia in 2017.
Meta said between July 2022 and June 2023, it restricted access to more than 3,500 items in response to reports by Malaysia’s communications regulator and other government agencies.
The content included criticism of the government and posts that allegedly violated laws on illegal gambling, hate speech, racially or religiously divisive content, bullying and financial scams, Meta’s report said.
Short video platform TikTok, in a similar report issued last month, said it had received 340 requests from the Malaysian government to remove or restrict content between January and June 2023, affecting 890 posts and accounts.
TikTok removed or restricted 815 of those for violating local laws or the platform’s community guidelines — the highest in a six-month period since it began reporting requests from Malaysia in 2019, the data showed. It was triple the number TikTok removed in the second half of 2022.
Malaysia made more requests to restrict content on TikTok than any other government in Southeast Asia, the data showed. Meta did not publish the total number of government requests it received for content restrictions.
The Malaysian government did not respond to a request for comment on the data. Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil said this week the communications regulator often acted upon complaints from ordinary users, denying allegations that he had requested the agency to seek the removal of posts critical of him on social media.
Race and religion are sensitive issues in Malaysia, which has a predominantly Muslim ethnic Malay population but significant ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities. It also has laws prohibiting seditious remarks or insults against its monarchy.
Fahmi said in October that TikTok had not done enough to curb defamatory or misleading content on its platform and accused it of failing to comply with some local laws. TikTok said it would take proactive measures to address the issues raised.
The government also threatened to take legal action against Meta for failing to act against “undesirable” content but dropped the plan after meetings with the company.
Free speech group Article 19 denounced the removal of posts critical of the government and expressed concerns over its increased requests to restrict content, warning that it could stifle legitimate free speech and expression.
“It is never permissible to prohibit expression solely because it casts a critical view on social issues, public figures or government institutions,” said Nalini Elumalai, its senior Malaysia program officer.


British man investigated for hate crime after viral racist rant against Muslim women

British man investigated for hate crime after viral racist rant against Muslim women
Updated 21 April 2024
Follow

British man investigated for hate crime after viral racist rant against Muslim women

British man investigated for hate crime after viral racist rant against Muslim women
  • ‘I don’t understand why people stand by and let it happen,’ says witness

LONDON: A hate crime investigation is underway following a viral video of an attack against Muslim women in East London, police confirmed on Sunday.

The incident occurred on Saturday in Romford when a white male, wearing glasses, targeted the group, some of whom were wearing hijabs and pushing shopping trolleys.

The footage, shared by Redbridge Community Action Group, shows the man following the women down South Street, a busy shopping area, while shouting and gesturing aggressively as they attempt to leave the scene.

The man is heard using profanities and labeling the women “Muslim traitors.”

In an outburst caught on camera, he accused one of the women of supporting missile attacks against Israel, adding: “We don’t want you here.” He went on to use an expletive.

The Metropolitan Police has confirmed it is treating the confrontation as a hate crime.

Scotland Yard posted on X: “We are aware and urgently investigating this clearly unacceptable incident. We will be speaking to the victim later.”

Vaseem Ahmed, 55, who was participating in a rally supporting a free Palestine, and located near Barclays Bank on the high street, witnessed the incident.

As police arrived, Ahmed noted that the activists dispersed, with the confrontation occurring as the women headed home.

He told The Independent: “I’d say to him (the white male) ‘If you’re going to be brave, do the same thing in front of some Muslim men (and) then see what the outcome is.’

“Don’t target innocent people; it’s the worst kind of bullying. And grow up. Some of the stuff he was saying was really vile.

“He was so angry and so worked up he couldn’t get his words out properly. It wasn’t the most eloquent rant.”

He added: “I know those women from other demonstrations. I was shocked in the way it happened, but then not shocked at the same time. Islamophobic attacks have skyrocketed since Oct. 7.

“A lot of government ministers and even Rishi Sunak refuse to call out Islamophobia when it happens, and people get emboldened.

“We are visibly Muslim, especially women, (and) they become easy targets. That’s the saddest thing.

“I didn’t see anyone intervene. They might have been concerned for their safety, but all you have to do is shout a few times; you don’t have to put yourself in danger. I don’t understand why people stand by and let it happen.”
 


Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition

Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition
Updated 20 April 2024
Follow

Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition

Arab News scoops 4 Merit Winner nods in 59th Society of Publication Designers competition
  • Awards across print, digital, infographics and illustrations ‘testament to talent and dedication of design and editorial teams’

LONDON: Arab News, the leading English-language daily newspaper in the Middle East, has won four Merit Winner awards at this year’s Society of Publication Designers competition.

Arab News’ “The Kingdom vs. Captagon” Spotlight piece garnered recognition in the two categories — Custom Feature and Single Page.

The two remaining accolades went to the “Onions’ tears and inflation fears” in the Feature Opener category and the “Guide to Hajj” in Infographic, commended for its exceptional data visualization.

“We are extremely proud to have won four awards at this year’s prestigious SPD competition,” Omar Nashashibi, head of design at Arab News, said.

“To win awards across print, digital, infographics and illustrations is testament to the talent and dedication of the Arab News design and editorial teams in creating engaging content for our readers.”

Since 1965, the annual SPD awards have promoted and celebrated excellence in editorial design, photography and illustration across both print and digital mediums. This year, the competition’s jury received thousands of entries from around the globe.  


Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say

Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say
Updated 20 April 2024
Follow

Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say

Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies of injuries, police say
  • Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man
  • The man, who police said recently traveled from Florida to New York, had not breached any security checkpoints to access the park

NEW YORK: A man who doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire outside the courthouse where former President Donald Trump is on trial has died, police said.
The New York City Police Department told The Associated Press early Saturday that the man was declared dead by staff at an area hospital.
The man was in Collect Pond Park around 1:30 p.m. Friday when he took out pamphlets espousing conspiracy theories, tossed them around, then doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire, officials and witnesses said.
A large number of police officers were nearby when it happened. Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man, who was hospitalized in critical condition at the time.
The man, who police said recently traveled from Florida to New York, had not breached any security checkpoints to access the park.

The park outside the courthouse has been a gathering spot for protesters, journalists and gawkers throughout Trump’s trial, which began with jury selection Monday.
Through Friday, the streets and sidewalks in the area around the courthouse were generally wide open and crowds have been small and largely orderly.
Authorities said they were also reviewing the security protocols, including whether to restrict access to the park. The side street where Trump enters and leaves the building is off limits.
“We may have to shut this area down,” New York City Police Department Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry said at a news conference outside the courthouse Friday, adding that officials would discuss the security plan soon.


Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine

Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine
Updated 20 April 2024
Follow

Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine

Russian war correspondent for Izvestia killed in Ukraine
  • Izvestia said Semyon Eremin, 42, died of wounds from a drone attack in Zaporizhzhia region
  • Eremin had reported for the Russian daily from hottest battles in Ukraine during the 25-month-old war

Semyon Eremin, a war correspondent for the Russian daily Izvestia, was killed on Friday in a drone attack in southeastern Ukraine, the daily said.

Izvestia said Eremin, 42, died of wounds suffered when a drone made a second pass over the area where he was reporting in Zaporizhzhia region.
Izvestia said Eremin had sent reports from many of the hottest battles in Ukraine’s eastern regions during the 25-month-old war, including Mariupol, besieged by Russian troops for nearly three months in 2022.
He had also reported from Maryinka and Vuhledar, towns at the center of many months of heavy fighting.


WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system

WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system
Updated 20 April 2024
Follow

WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system

WhatsApp being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s Lavender AI system
  • Targets’ selection based on membership to some WhatsApp groups, new report reveals
  • Accusation raises questions about app’s privacy and encryption claims

LONDON: WhatsApp is allegedly being used to target Palestinians through Israel’s contentious artificial intelligence system, Lavender, which has been linked to the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, recent reports have revealed.

Earlier this month, Israeli-Palestinian publication +972 Magazine and Hebrew-language outlet Local Call published a report by journalist Yuval Abraham, exposing the Israeli army’s use of an AI system capable of identifying targets associated with Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

This revelation, corroborated by six Israeli intelligence officers involved in the project, has sparked international outrage, as it suggested Lavender has been used by the military to target and eliminate suspected militants, often resulting in civilian casualties.

In a recent blog post, software engineer and activist Paul Biggar highlighted Lavender’s reliance on WhatsApp.

He pointed out how membership in a WhatsApp group containing a suspected militant can influence Lavender’s identification process, highlighting the pivotal role messaging platforms play in supporting AI targeting systems like Lavender.

“A little-discussed detail in the Lavender AI article is that Israel is killing people based on being in the same WhatsApp group as a suspected militant,” Bigger wrote. “There’s a lot wrong with this.”

He explained that users often find themselves in groups with strangers or acquaintances.

Biggar also suggested that WhatsApp’s parent company, Meta, may be complicit, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in these operations.

He accused Meta of potentially violating international humanitarian law and its own commitments to human rights, raising questions about the privacy and encryption claims of WhatsApp’s messaging service.

The revelation is just the latest of Meta’s perceived attempts to silence pro-Palestinian voices.

Since before the beginning of the conflict, the Menlo Park giant has faced accusations of double standards favoring Israel.

In February, the Guardian revealed that Meta was considering the expansion of its hate speech policy to the term “Zionist.”

More recently, Meta quietly introduced a new feature on Instagram that automatically limits users’ exposure to what it deems “political” content, a decision criticized by experts as a means of systematically censoring pro-Palestinian content.

Responding to requests for comment, a WhatsApp spokesperson said that the company could not verify the accuracy of the report but assured that “WhatsApp has no backdoors and does not provide bulk information to any government.”