MCMC tries to take down posts critical of government’s handling of floods, Twitter says ‘No’

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Twitter lauded for upholding users’ constitutional right to express their dissatisfaction.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has unsuccessfully sought to remove Twitter posts that are critical of the government’s handling of last weekend’s flash floods that have devastated communities, particularly in parts of Selangor and Pahang.

A netizen posted yesterday that he had received an email from Twitter informing him about a request made by MCMC to the micro-blogging site to remove his Twitter posts.

However, Twitter rejected MCMC’s request.

“In the interest of transparency, we are writing to inform you that Twitter has received a request from MCMC regarding your Twitter account that claims the following content violates the law(s) of Malaysia.

“We have not taken any action on the reported content at this time as a result of this request,” said the email from Twitter, which was shared by the netizen who uses Twitterhandle @BadBoy2662.

Based on the email, the contents that MCMC wants removed include a tweet where the netizen criticised a flood fundraising event that involved Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun.

The other content that MCMC took issue with was a tweet that criticised Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Minister Noh Omar over the latter’s statement regarding the eligibility of flood victims to claim government aid.

When contacted for comments over the allegation, Communications and Multimedia Minister Annuar Musa only gave a short reply to Malaysiakini last night.

“Karut…,” he said in a text message. Karut means nonsense in Bahasa Malaysia.

However, MCMC when contacted earlier today did not deny the matter and said they have reported to Twitter several hashtags that are “obscene”.

Bernama

In a short statement, the commission said they made the request to ensure the law as per Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 is complied with.

Section 233 of the CMA stipulates offences related to improper use of network facilities or services and was commonly used to crackdown netizens who upload social media posts that authorities deem as offensive or can potentially incite hatred, among others.

“MCMC always respects platform providers such as Twitter. MCMC also has the responsibility to ensure that there is compliance with existing laws as stipulated under Section 233 of the CMA.

“Thus, MCMC has taken the action of reporting the use of several obscene hashtags to Twitter,” said the commission’s statement.

It was learnt that the Twitter user @BadBoy2662 was not the only account that had been reported by MCMC to Twitter.

In one of the replies to @BadBoy2662’s post about MCMC failed attempt, another Twitter user also shared a similar experience.

@cheryltanxr wrote: “I also kena lmao” (I also experienced this).

Checks on her account found that she has already deleted the original tweet that MCMC had taken issue with. However, based on another tweet, it was understood that she had criticised a flood relief shelter over alleged discrimination against foreigners.

“Some of you may be wondering where my tweet about one of the shelters discriminating foreigners went. Just want to update here that I’ve received a warning from Twitter and MCMC asking me to remove my tweet as I’ve violated Malaysian laws.

“I would love to keep the tweet up and see how far they’re willing to go, but my parents are not happy with me. Just know that our government has the [REDACTED] audacity to do nonsense like this and try to silence voices over actually being helpful at this time,” she tweeted early in the morning yesterday.

Meanwhile, Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto criticised the authority’s attempt to remove dissent against the government on social media.

“#KeluargaMalaysia means nothing if you allow MCMC to persecute those who criticise the government for its ineffectiveness in managing the floods.

“Even you have admitted flaws of the govt in this,” she said in a Tweet directed at Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

“Instruct MCMC to stop intimidating voices of dissent!”

According to the DAP MP, at least three such cases have been brought to her attention.

She also questioned MCMC’s swift action when it comes to criticism against Putrajaya, compared to other issues such as cyberbullying and religious bigotry in comments that were made on social media.

“There have been many occasions where sexist, racist and bigoted religious comments that went unreported by MCMC. Of course, anyone can report an account and Twitter has the sole authority and power to decide if the post should be removed or the account suspended.

“But to have a state agency reporting these accounts – when the contents have been against the conduct and management of the flood is a dangerous violation of free speech in Malaysia.

“Apart from that, did MCMC work as fast when dealing with cyberbullying cases? When women and men were victims of bullying and harassment online?”

Lawyer and activist Siti Kasim lauded Twitter for upholding users’ constitutional right to express their dissatisfaction.

“Apa ni Boss…@IsmailSabri60. Don’t la use govt machinery to stop freedom of expression in criticising gomen… Well done @Twitter for upholding our constitutional right to express dissatisfaction with our government,” she tweeted.

Meanwhile, Josef Benedict, who is a researcher with Civicus, a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists, was appalled by the move.

“Appalling that the #Malaysian government is trying to silence online criticism of their handling of the floods. Blatant violation of the right to freedom of expression. Good that @Twitter is pushing back,” he said.