KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil has recently expressed concerns that Telegram is unwilling to cooperate with the government despite several requests for a meeting since January 2023. He said there have been many complaints about scams, pornography and illegal drug sales on the instant messaging platform.

In statement shared to the New Straits Times, a Telegram spokesperson Remi Vaughn said it refused to cooperate with Fahmi’s ministry as the platform did not want to participate in “any form of political censorship”. He added that Telegram has been actively moderating harmful content on its platform including the sale of illegal substances and public pornography.

He added that Telegram moderators have proactively monitor public parts of the app as well as accepting user reports through the app or by email at [email protected] to remove content that violates their terms of service. He iterated that Telegram will not participate in any form of political censorship.

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Fahmi has recently told the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to look at appropriate decisions that need to be made in order to tackle inappropriate and scam content. As reported previously, the MCMC has limited powers to act on platforms hosted overseas as current policies are ineffective.

The MCMC calls for intervention including reviewing the self-regulatory framework as several over-the-top (OTT) applications and social media platforms have not been effective in self-regulating the use of their platforms in line with Malaysia’s laws and national interest. Despite Meta’s promise that it has algorithms in place to tackle scams, it is clear that they have failed to prevent scam ads impersonating brands and public figures on Facebook and Meta. Even Fahmi himself is also a victim of impersonation on Meta’s platform.

Several social media platforms are not fast to act on scam and inappropriate content as they lack a local team to monitor and act on user reports. To tackle scam ads, the platforms which make huge revenues from online advertising should be required to form a local moderation team and make it mandatory to conduct basic checks on new advertisers to the platform.

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Other countries such as Indonesia have imposed new requirements for both international and local platforms to adhere to new regulations that are aimed at tackling harmful content. In Indonesia, all digital platforms are required to register themselves as an Electronic Systems Provider (PSE) which will require them to comply with take-down requests within 24 hours or within 4 hours if it is urgent. Unregistered platforms are banned in the country and eventually, most popular platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, TikTok and Telegram are spared after registering themselves with the government.

In 2017, the Malaysian government blocked software platform Steam after failing to comply with the MCMC’s request to take down a video game called Fight of Gods. The ban was eventually lifted after complying with MCMC’s request. — SoyaCincau