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Call to regulate social media to prevent racial unrest

Nikita Nawawi
Written by Nikita Nawawi

KUALA LUMPUR – July 14, 2015: Calls for the government to regulate social media have grown stronger following a brawl between groups of different races at Low Yat Plaza last Saturday.

The government has also been asked to devise a comprehensive mechanism to end the kind social media abuse that followed the the Low Yat incident to safeguard peace in multi-racial Malaysia.

The commotion involving some Chinese retailers and several Malay men was caught on camera and has since gone viral, with many giving the incident a racial twist.

Dave Avran of Spanking DA Monkey blog yesterday said that the authorities needed to stop the abuse of social media freedom even if this meant introducing new laws.

“The Royal Malaysian Police and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) need to track down and bring to book every website, online news portal and other social media accounts that tried to twist the Low Yat incident into a racial confrontation.

“Having free access to social media does not give you the license to inflame, incite and act in a totally irresponsible manner,” he wrote.

Avran had also urged Malaysians to take a step back from being keyboard warriors.

“If you really feel strongly about a subject and need to express your opinion, at least study your subject matter thoroughly and check your facts before posting,” he added.

Blogger Lim Sian See took the same view.

Lim suggested that the police and MCMC arrest netizens who spread fabricated news of the incident for questioning and determine if they had committed any offence.

“At least, their social media accounts should be put on a monitoring list. If MCMC does not have a ‘To Monitor’ list, it is time to create one.

“This incident shows how uncontrolled social media could cause great harm to Malaysia. It appears that the mentality of most Malaysians suggests that we are not ready for full freedom of speech,” he added.

Lim backed his argument as he recalled how Malaysians had lived harmoniously before the emergence of social media and that stricter control would not make a big difference.

“I would give up some of my internet freedom if it means peace is preserved and the hatred level in society would go down.

“Many countries in our region have done this, so I do not see why Malaysia should be any different,” he said.

Senior journalist Datuk Ahirudin Attan of Rocky’s Bru blog also had his fair share on the matter.

“Things are now under control though I doubt many of us would be going to Low Yat Plaza anytime soon.

“The thing is, we know it would happen again unless the authorities punish not just those gangsters involved in the fight but more importantly, those who tried to turn this stupidity into something even more sinister.

“The authorities need to stop the abuse of our social media freedom now. Regulate the social media,” he wrote in his blog.

Ahirudin also supported Avran’s proposal that the authorities should book every website, news portal and other social media accounts that tried to turn the fracas into a racial confrontation.

“We have to teach these scums a lesson or take responsibility when they turn the next little gang fight into a ‘race thing’,” he said.

The role played by netizens in the scuffle had also concerned Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Najib in a report yesterday suggested stricter Internet controls, claiming the incident was made into a racial issue because social media was ‘too free’.

Hence he said it was now necessary to look into existing Internet laws to better regulate its content.

“We have freedom on social media so there is a problem because it is too free in this instance, so this is something that should be thoroughly researched,” he said.

He also urged the public not to easily believe information spread on social media without first verifying its validity.

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About the author

Nikita Nawawi

Nikita Nawawi

Nikita Nawawi is an up-and-coming writer who started his involvement in the media industry serving established local English daily, before joining The Mole in October 2014 as journalist.