Work with us for positive changes, Dr M urges Facebook

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says free and open internet has to be within the ambit of the country’s laws and cannot be unfettered.

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad today urged Facebook and other platform providers to continue collaborating with the government as well as law enforcement agencies to ensure social media remains a platform for positive rather than negative changes.

Mahathir said while Malaysia advocates free and open internet, this has to be within the ambit of the country’s laws and cannot be unfettered.

“The rule of the thumb is simple – what is illegal offline is almost always illegal online.

“Freedom of speech is not a licence to abuse, it is a responsibility. Freedom of speech without any concern for good human behaviour would be a disaster for any society.

“In enforcing our laws to protect the public, all stakeholders need to work together to overcome technical challenges as well as address the need for greater information sharing towards the disclosure or discovery of information to facilitate law enforcement agencies to carry out their duties effectively,” he said when opening the Facebook Malaysia office at Q Sentral here.

Mahathir said another area for stronger cooperation between both parties, specifically Facebook, would be in the Community Standards Enforcement Report.

He noted that while there is some form of recognition of hate speech, there are other forms of speech that may potentially be a threat to a nation’s harmony and national security.

“The diversity in culture and tradition translates to very different consequences and implications in speech and postings.

“If not taken down quickly, such speeches and postings are potentially harmful depending on what is being said and in the context of a particular country,” he said.

Mahathir said the government recognises that social media providers have done their best to find automated ways to search and filter inappropriate posts by employing User Generated Content (UGC) related to child pornography, terrorism and hate speech.

“The challenge now is to address the diverse spectrum and other UGC content in relation to religious sensitivity, political speech, sedition and even human rights issues, to name a few.

“I am aware that Facebook and a few other social media providers are already working with the Asean Telecommunication Regulators’ Council on this and I urge all of you to continue your cooperation in expanding the current list of areas for immediate take-down,” he said.

Mahathir reiterated the government’s commitment to encourage and provide incentives to investments and collaborations in turning Malaysia into a hub for digital services and communications.

He said Putrajaya is also encouraging Malaysian companies to enhance their capabilities in these areas by collaborating with multinationals in order to become regional or global champions.