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MADPET: TikTok, other apps should not be censored unless there is a valid court order

Publish date: Tue, 18 Jun 2024, 09:22 AM

THE Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET) has expressed concern that the government had been violating the country’s freedom of expression, revealing that there had been requests by Putrajaya for TikTok to remove posts and delete user accounts.

In a statement, the rights group called for an end to “secret” censoring or blocking of accounts through requests to service providers or app owners.

MADPET spokesperson Charles Hector further revealed that in 2023, Malaysia had embarrassingly emerged the global champion with 2,202 take-down requests made to TikTok, with Australia coming second with 651 requests.

“TikTok and apps should not be censored at all, and certainly never on the government’s request unless there is a valid court order, and they should not blindly follow the government’s request on the basis of laws been allegedly broken,” Hector remarked.

“One should not blame a phone service provider for what people said over the phone. Likewise, TikTok and other apps should not be blamed for their users’ posts, and neither should online media be blamed for readers’ comments.”

Hector went on to question how many suspects responsible for the taken down posts or accounts have even been investigated, charged in court, tried and convicted for crimes.

“If there are none or just a few, then the government’s actions are deplorable, unjust and an abuse of power,” he stressed.

“Were the victims of this violation of rights even accorded the right to be heard before the government asked TikTok to remove the users’ content and/or delete their accounts?

“Or did the government ‘simply hide’ from the victims the fact that it was the government itself that was behind this ‘censorship’ and the removal of their TikTok accounts and posts?”

According to TikTok’s bi-annual “Government Removal Requests Report” released on June 7, during the period from July to December 2023, the Malaysian government had requested for TikTok to remove content or take down accounts 1,862 times, and TikTok had complied with 87.8% of these requests.

Citing the report, Hector noted that the number of content removal requests in 2023 was 29 times higher than the 75 requests made in 2022 when Perikatan Nasional (PN) was still in power.

“This makes one wonder whether the previous PN government, before the current government came into power in November 2022, was so much better in terms of promoting and defending our right to freedom of expression.”

Hector went on to call for an amendment of laws that would abolish arbitrary government or a ministry’s actions that may violate human rights, saying it is safer that a court order be required before any acts of censorship or blocking of accounts are done.

“The victim’s right to be informed and the right to be heard must be respected,” he added. - June 17, 2024

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