Malaysia said on Friday it would take legal action against Facebook parent Meta Platforms for failing to remove “bad” posts, the country’s toughest yet against such content.
Since taking power last November, the government of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has vowed to clamp down on so-called provocative posts involving race and religion.
In a statement, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission said Facebook had recently been “plagued” by a large amount of objectionable content related to race, royalty, religion, defamation, impersonation, online gambling and deceptive advertisements.
It also said that despite repeated requests from Meta, insufficient action had been taken and that legal action was necessary to promote cybersecurity accountability and protect consumers.
Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The committee also did not immediately respond to a request for comment on what legal action it might take.
Race and religion are thorny issues in Malaysia, which has a Muslim Malay majority and large Chinese and Indian minorities.
Comments about members of the country’s respected royal family are also a sensitive issue, and negative comments about them could be tried under sedition laws.
The action against Facebook comes just weeks before regional elections in six states, where Anwar’s multi-ethnic coalition is expected to pit itself against the conservative Malay-Muslim League.
Facebook is Malaysia’s largest social media platform, with an estimated 60% of its 33 million population having a registered account.
Globally, big social media companies including Meta, Google’s YouTube and TikTok have often come under regulatory scrutiny for the content they post on their platforms.
Some Southeast Asian governments routinely request removal of content.
In 2020, Vietnam threatened to shut down Facebook in the country if it did not bow to government pressure to censor more local political content on its platform. In the first quarter of last year, social media platforms operating in Vietnam removed more than 3,200 posts and videos that contained false information and violated the country’s laws.
In Indonesia, Facebook shut down hundreds of local accounts, pages and groups linked to fake news groups in 2019