Suppressed and censored: a stifling reality for some FB users

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

On May 28, Facebook had its office in Malaysia opened by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, during which the prime minister called for the social media giant to up its game in handling freedom in the cyberspace.

And from then on, certain quarters claimed to have felt a stifling aftereffect of Dr Mahathir’s suggestion to Facebook, one which they deemed had contradicted the government’s guarantee of a greater internet freedom.

KUALA LUMPUR — October 29, 2019: When DAP politicians scoffed at the police for claiming that there were attempts to revive terror group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), one Facebook group gained prominence for defending the authority.

The group, Malaysian Research Centre for Terrorist and Missionary Threats (MRCTM), published 12 posts containing instances and statements of Malaysians who openly announced their affiliation and adoration of the now-defunct LTTE.

However, immediately after two days of publication, Facebook had deleted the October 17 – 18 posts as it deemed them in violation of its community standards.

“They (Facebook) just deleted our posts without giving us any heads-up and specific explanations on how exactly our posts had violated its community standards,” wrote the group’s administrator to The Mole.

While Facebook Malaysia has yet to respond to posers over the matter, according to its help center, Facebook has a zero-tolerance policy against those involved in terrorist activities, mass murder, human trafficking, organised hate, violence and criminalties.

“We also remove content that expresses support or praise for groups, leaders, or individuals involved in these activities,” read Facebook’s community standards on dangerous individuals and organisations.

Why the standards were applied to MRCTM’s deleted informational posts that ware crafted to debunk misinformation and baseless claims was something that Facebook did not clarify in the factsheet of its anti-terrorism policy. 

But the fact that it did so, had further fuelled the already-brewing suspicion among politically savvy social media users, particularly the opposition supporters, over a supposed biasness of Facebook fact-checkers who review reported posts.

Where MRCTM had its posts deleted, another group, the Tentera Troll Kebangsaan Malaysia (TTKM), had faced a different kind of stifling experience in Facebook.

The political satire group has had their reach artificially suppressed by Facebook on three occasions this year and similar to the case of MRCTM, Facebook neither give them any heads up nor explicit reasons why it did so.

To those unfamiliar with Facebook lingo, suppressed pages will have their reach severely cut. Basically, this means that TTKM’s half a million followers -513,474 to be exact- will no longer see group’s posts on their respective Facebook homepage

“We first detected it [the third suppression] on September 7. They (Facebook) did not tell us why they did so,” wrote a TTKM administrator to The Mole.

TTKM’s September suppression was imposed almost immediately after it published a post, promoting the ongoing “Buy Muslims First” consumer campaign, a movement that was heavily criticised by the Pakatan Harapan government.

Previously in July, TTKM was suppressed due to a post that highlighted the hypocrisy of DAP politicians over their silence concerning a rape allegation that had implicated one of them because Facebook said that it violated its policies on nudity and sexual activity.

TTKM administrators however argued that the post contained zero nudity since it was a mere collage of screen grabs of news headlines and anti-rape statements uttered by DAP politicians when they were in the opposition.

The grouses by TTKM administrators over Facebook’s alleged political bias however, was not without merit.

Last week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg struggled to answer questions by the US Congress concerning Facebook’s preferential treatment to politicians who pay it to help disseminate political advertisements even if it contains lies.

“I think lying is bad, and I think if you were to run an ad that had a lie that would be bad. That’s different from it being in our position to prevent your constituents or people in an election from seeing that you had lied,” said Zuckerberg.



About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at zaidiazmi91@gmail.com.