Update [10:42 AM EDT]: Malaysian communication and multimedia minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek just said that the government has no plans to block Facebook despite mounting reports of social media abuse in the country.
Facebook Inc NASDAQ:FB seems to be in trouble in Malaysia. The country’s Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said that the government was studying a proposal to block Facebook. The move comes amid a rising number of abuses reported on the world’s largest social networking platform. Shabery’s announcement came after a Facebook user posted a doctored photo that insulted Malaysian king Tuanku Abdul Halim.
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Facebook has over 15 million users in Malaysia
Shabery said that many people were of the opinion that the social networking site should be banned, and his ministry was looking into the matter. However, the minister added that blocking Facebook Inc NASDAQ:FB in the country would be “radical and quite impossible.” The Menlo Park-based company has more than 15 million active users in Malaysia.
Activists were quick to criticize the ministry for contemplating such a move. Free speech advocate Masjaliza Hamzah said that the proposal to block Facebook Inc NASDAQ:FB is yet another proof of the Malaysian government’s distorted view of the Internet. A user said censoring Facebook is like placing a ban on car sales because cars cause road accidents. Others reminded Shabery of the overall positive impact of social networking in society. It has also offered new business opportunities in Malaysia.
There is an alternative to blocking Facebook
Many people have suggested the government an alternative to banning Facebook Inc NASDAQ:FB. They have proposed that the Facebook accounts be registered with the government and the Sedition Act be amended to cover those using social media to spread religious hate speech. Malaysian police have already formed a task force to monitor the social media and take stern action who abuse it.
Earlier this month, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad voiced for censorship of the Internet to protect public morality, reports The Diplomat. Mahathir argued that censorship was necessary to protect public and children from being exposed to “dangerous topics.” Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak has repeatedly promised that online free speech would never be compromised. The mainstream media is already heavily censored in Malaysia.