KUALA LUMPUR: The use of social media does have many benefits, but there is also a dark side when it is misused, bringing negative effects to users, including financial losses.

Through social media platforms, many have fallen victim to online fraud, cyberbullying, misuse of personal information, violation of privacy and sexual grooming involving children as well as activities like prostitution and the sale of pornographic content. Mohammad Ezaly Iman Ramli, a cyber security analyst at the Malaysian Digital Foundation, said that laws to regulate social media platform operators like Facebook, TikTok, X, Telegram and WhatsApp should be established to ensure that content and posts veering towards criminal aspects such as fraud, cyberbullying and child grooming can be controlled.

He said that in its bid to regulate social media operators, the government must identify the legal responsibilities of these entities, such as requiring them to reject or block any advertisement promoting illegal activities like online gambling and non-existent investment schemes.

“This move can save many social media users from falling victim to online crimes, in addition to creating a safe social media ecosystem that people of all ages can use,” he told Bernama.

It is learnt that regulatory frameworks for online platform providers, especially social media, have been introduced in countries like Australia, Indonesia, the European Union, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Assoc Prof Dr M. Selvakumar, a cyber security expert from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), believes that laws to regulate social media platforms should have been established years ago following the increased use of social media in daily life.

“Social media companies, most of which are based in the United States, have philosophies and principles that are different from those in Malaysia, so we need laws to ensure that the content uploaded is in line with the culture and norms of our people,” he said.

Elaborating, he said the time has come for the government to be firm with social media platforms and make them share the responsibility of filtering uploaded content so that it does not violate the laws of the country.

“Currently, illegal content is only taken down if there is a complaint or request from the authorities. The advancement of artificial intelligence technology over the past two years can be used to filter content,” he said.

Malaysia Cyber Consumer Association president Siraj Jalil concurs and said that the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and the Cyber Security Act 2024 could be amended if necessary and be used as a reference in the regulatory framework for social media platform operators.

“These operators should be held accountable to ensure they provide sufficient operational and technological resources to enable them to detect content that could be harmful to users,” he said.

Siraj said that regulatory methods for social media platform operators should follow local governance, culture and practices, without referring to foreign countries, as Malaysia has its own identity.

He explained that currently there are no specific laws for social media platform operators other than cooperation and discretion to remove content that violates Malaysian laws.

He said that with the regulatory framework on social media platform providers, the government could make it compulsory for them to introduce an effective monitoring system to ensure children below 13 are not allowed to create social media accounts.

He added that the regulatory framework could also make it compulsory for platform providers to immediately block and report any sexual grooming activities occurring on their platforms to the authorities.

“Establishing regulatory methods against social media platform operators will not affect users but rather protect them from becoming victims of online crime,” he said.

Based on the Royal Malaysia Police records, through the Bukit Aman Commercial Crime Investigation Department, an average of 92 commercial crime cases are received daily based on the 14,051 commercial crime cases investigated as of week 22 of this year, which is June 2, with a total loss of RM959,041,692.

Meanwhile, Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department’s Sexual, Women and Child Investigation Division (D11) principal assistant director SAC Siti Kamsiah Hassan said rape cases involving underage girls had shown a significant increase in the last three years and most of it began from grooming via social media, including messaging applications like WhatsApp.

She said police statistics recorded a total of 1,590 underage rape cases throughout 2023, an increase compared to 1,388 cases in 2022 and 1,299 cases in 2021. She added that, based on investigations, most victims told police that they got to know the perpetrators through social media platforms. – Bernama