Social media licensing crucial step to curb cyberbullying, online scams, experts say

While licensing is a significant step, it should be complemented by advocacy and education.

11 Jul 2024 10:04am
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF

SHAH ALAM - Social media licensing is crucial given the current rise in cases involving cyberbullying and online scams, say experts.

In light of the growing concerns over online harassment and fraudulent activities, lawyer Alex Anton Netto suggested the need for a form of social media licensing.

"Perhaps some form of licensing is required given the current rise in cases involving cyberbullying and online scams," he told Sinar Daily.

Netto acknowledged the potential counter-argument that such licensing could restrict freedom of speech.

However, he emphasised the importance of prioritising public safety and wellbeing over individual freedoms.

"I do believe that at the end of the day, general public safety and wellbeing trumps one's personal freedom of speech," he said.

Quoting former Ugandan leader Idi Amin, Netto said there is freedom of speech, but one cannot guarantee freedom after speech.

The lawyer said many online users failed to self-regulate, believing they were untouchable when making comments.

"Freedom of speech is to be enjoyed, not abused. To prevent abuse, it ought to be regulated," he added.

Supporting this view, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Communication and Media Studies senior lecturer Dr Abdul Aziz Azizam highlighted the need for a clear mechanism to govern social media content.

"We are not sure how the mechanism takes shape, but as far as we are all concerned, the problem is that the content is not from the platform.

"So apart from licensing, we also need a clear mechanism on how the government should govern the content in social media," he said.

Aziz emphasised the necessity of establishing a clear framework that included both a controlling mechanism for the industry and guidelines for public conduct.

"I believe it should come together. Instead of just boosting the policy on the industry, we also need to have a clear guideline and definition on how cyberbullying, scams and related issues are understood by the public," he explained.

He stressed that public awareness and responsibility are key to the success of any regulatory framework.

"The public should know their limitations and communication or content should come with responsibility.

"With that clear in mind, everyone understands the consequences. That is the key to success in terms of applying the framework in actions," he said.

While licensing was a significant step, Aziz also called for advocacy and education to complement regulatory efforts.

"The licensing is not the only solution. Advocating from the public side is one of the key important steps. Only then can we gain the full benefit," he added.

It was reported that the government's plans to license social media and messaging platforms has sparked increasing concern.

In March, Communications Deputy Minister Teo Nie Ching told the Dewan Rakyat that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) was finalising a framework for licensing all social media platform service providers operating in the country.

She said the licensing enforcement proposal was targeted at social media service providers and internet messaging services that can be accessed by users in the country.

She said the targeted licensing enforcement proposal was justified, given the amount of harmful content on social media and internet messaging services.

The move, she said would increase online safety, particularly for social media and internet messaging service users, protecting them from online fraud and harmful content.