MCMC: Power to act on social media scams limited as current policies are ineffective

MCMC: Power to act on social media scams limited as current policies are ineffective

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) recently shared that on 12 January 2023, Meta will provide an update on the current Facebook scam ad situation to Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil. The Facebook scam ads are out of control because they mimic popular brands. and public figures with little or no action from Meta, even after being reported. The MCMC recently followed up with a new statement about the steps it took with Meta.

2,731 fake pages were removed between 2020 and November 2022

The MCMC provided us with the following statement:

MCMC has continuously expressed its concern about impersonation and fake/scam ads on Facebook and social media platforms.

Through our association with META, we were informed that the platform has stricter policies on advertising. For fake accounts impersonating organizations including news portals/banks etc., Meta continues to take action based on reports from either the affected party and/or authorities. MCMC is working closely with META to investigate identified organizations on board, ministries that are frequently the target of impersonation/fake account.

Pages below have been removed. (reported to Facebook on 12/21/2022) (removed by Facebook) (Removed by Facebook)

From 2020 to November 2022, a total of 2,731 fake accounts and impersonation pages were removed by the respective platform providers, at the request of MCMC. The removal is based on violation of platform providers terms of service as well as their community standards.

We also submitted the recent incident of fake Sin Chiew FB page for quick reviews. The fake account administrator lives / operates abroad. Automatic algorithm to delete impersonator account may take time and platform dependent. MCMC will urge organizations to better manage their brand presence in social media. They must be vigilant to protect their brand and image from being targeted by criminals and scammers.

Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission

While the scam ads impersonating Sin Chew Daily have been removed, the fake Kinokuniya Malaysia pages are still up and running. According to the MCMC, a total of 2,731 fake accounts and impersonation pages were removed from various social media platforms, including Meta, between 2020 and November 2022 upon request by the regulator. That’s an average of 78 pages per month or 2.6 pages per day, which isn’t much.

In the last paragraph, the MCMC urges organizations to better manage their brand presence in social media and they must be vigilant to protect their brand and image from being targeted by criminals and scammers. While brands can constantly post public service announcements about scam ads, the root of the problem is social media platforms that allowed scam ads in the first place.

Meta’s algorithm for tackling scam ads is clearly not working

As mentioned in MCMC’s previous statement, Meta has an existing mechanism to tackle scams and is also investigating other mechanisms to prevent such activities from happening again. Despite the various #TakNakScam campaigns launched by Meta, Facebook is seen aiding and abetting scam activities by approving scam ads to run on its platform. Most of these scam ads can be easily weeded out if Meta performs basic checks on ads or has an active moderation team.

For a company that makes billions of dollars in revenue (USD 27.714 billion for Q3 2022) from advertising, it seems that no one at Meta Malaysia’s office in Kuala Lumpur is capable of acting on fraud pulses. At the very least, Malaysia should demand Meta to have a localized team capable of moderating ads targeted at Malaysians and acting quickly on reports made by Malaysian users.

New regulatory policies are required to hold social media platforms accountable

All content creators in Malaysia are subject to the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, but the current regulatory policy is not effective in dealing with platforms hosted overseas, such as Meta’s Facebook. As a result, these platforms have had to self-regulate using their own content policies.

To keep their platforms safe, social media platforms will need to take their own measures to tackle inappropriate content and scams. For example, TikTok has its own moderation team in Malaysia that can remove videos that don’t comply with their own policies.

When post-GE15 “May 13” videos were reported, the video-based social media platform took immediate action and the videos were removed from TikTok within 24 hours. In fact, TikTok was more proactive by responding quickly and cooperating closely with both the police and regulator.

This is something you don’t see at Meta as they hardly give an answer. It is clear that Meta is not taking the situation seriously as they have allowed the ads to run for days if not weeks despite public attention to the matter.

Indonesia recently requires all digital platforms, both local and foreign, to register as an Electronic System Provider (PSE). After being registered with the local authorities, these platforms are required to comply with takedown requests within 24 hours or within 4 hours if it is an urgent request.

Meta’s Facebook and Instagram eventually had to comply by registering at the last minute to avoid a possible ban. Other platforms such as Steam, Epic Games, Dota, Yahoo and PayPal were reportedly blocked by Indonesia after failing to meet the deadline.

While stricter regulations could make foreign platforms “behave” better, the move could be seen as a restriction of freedom of speech online. We were told by the MCMC that if such policies were to be implemented in Malaysia, they would cover all foreign digital platforms, including Netflix and YouTube. This is a delicate matter and should be carefully considered.

However, something needs to be done at a policy level as scams are a huge threat in Malaysia and online platforms like Meta are not showing responsibility. The MCMC can only do so much if Meta is not held accountable by our existing laws.

As one person did pointed out, If Meta is so confident in their existing mechanisms, why don’t they make full compensation to victims who have been duped by Meta-sanctioned ads? Malaysia has given Meta all the time and freedom to crack down on scammers, now it’s time for Malaysia to crack the whip.

To be clear, we are not calling for a complete ban on Facebook, but to make them responsible and accountable for amplifying misinformation and scams through their advertising platform. Maybe Fahmi Fadzil can make it mandatory for all platforms including Meta to introduce manual checks for all ads on their platform (first ads from pages with less than 5000 likes) and to set up a local moderation team within 3 months. If they don’t comply by the deadline, Facebook must stop showing ads targeting Malaysians. Additionally, if Facebook fails to take down a scam ad within 24 hours of being requested by the MCMC, they should be slapped with fines for non-compliance.

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