Meta and TikTok set record content restrictions in Malaysia amidst government scrutiny

The Prime Minister’s administration faces accusations of compromising free speech protection, which the government denies, attributing restrictions to curbing provocative content.


Facebook owner Meta and Chinese platform TikTok have restricted an unprecedented number of social media posts and accounts in Malaysia during the first half of 2023. The surge in content restrictions comes amid increased government requests, with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s administration facing accusations of compromising on free speech protection.

The government denies stifling dissent and attributes content restrictions to curbing provocative posts about race, religion, and royalty. However, according to Meta’s report, the content involved government criticism and posts allegedly violating laws on illegal gambling, hate speech, divisive content, bullying, and financial scams.

Meta’s Transparency Report shows a six-fold increase in content restrictions, while TikTok removed or restricted 815 posts and accounts, the highest in six months since 2019. Concerns about the impact on free speech are growing, with Article 19 warning that increased content restrictions may stifle legitimate expression.

Why does it matter?

In Malaysia, issues of race and religion are highly sensitive topics, given the predominantly Muslim Malay majority and significant Chinese and Indian minorities, coupled with laws against criticizing the monarchy. In October, Communications Minister Fahmi accused TikTok of insufficiently addressing defamatory content and non-compliance with local laws. Similarly, Meta faced criticism for failing to tackle ‘undesirable’ content but, despite government threats, evaded legal action after discussions. The Malaysian government’s handling of online content has faced criticism from civil society. In August of this year, Malaysian journalists spoke out against the government’s move to shut down political news websites, drawing condemnation from the international organization Reporters Without Borders.