Malaysia Abandons Move to Regulate Social Media Videos After Backlash

Indian mobile users browses through the Chinese owned video-sharing 'Tik Tok' app on a smartphones in Amritsar on June 30, 2020. - TikTok on June 30 denied sharing information on Indian users with the Chinese government, after New Delhi banned the wildly popular app citing national security and privacy concerns. …
NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images

One day after prompting an international backlash by proposing to regulate social media videos as if they were full-blown documentaries and theatrical productions, the government of Malaysia completely abandoned the idea.

“Social media users are free to use existing platforms such as TikTok, YouTube, and the like, including producing and uploading videos as normal without the need to apply for a license or fear of persecution by FINAS,” said a Friday statement from Saifuddin Abdullah, the communications minister who sparked a firestorm the previous day by suggesting such licenses should be necessary.

FINAS is the National Film Development Corporation of Malaysia, the regulatory agency that charges film and TV producers thousands of dollars for permits and requires applications to be submitted a week in advance. As Abdullah’s many critics pointed out, the move could present an undue burden on people who want to upload videos of their pets, amateur cell phone footage of breaking news events, or political commentary.

“The government of Malaysia stresses its position to support the principles of media freedom and individual freedom on social media,” Abdullah added, which is exactly what he said when he floated the idea of regulating cat videos.

Reuters noted that Malaysia has a remarkably high percentage of social media users, so the impact of requiring all of them to apply for film licenses would have been enormous. Even if they were all willing to file applications and pay the absurdly high fees, the Malaysian government would have been hard-pressed to keep up with the flood of new paperwork.

“I understand we need laws against say slander, but they shouldn’t require licenses for people who just want to upload a video of a birthday party when their child turns two,” as one Malaysian YouTube user put it.

Reuters further noted that the current Malaysian government has an unpleasant history of stifling dissent, even though it is only four months old (the previous government was no better). Among its heavy-handed regulatory actions was attempting to hold a news website accountable for comments submitted by readers, a bold new frontier of censorship in which Malaysia is lagging behind American Big Tech corporations.

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