Tech Giants Grapple with Content Moderation in South-East Asia (The Straits Times)

Content moderation of social media involves screening user-generated content (UGC) to determine its appropriateness. Content moderation has become indispensable, without which social networks would be inundated with harmful and objectionable content. Despite the continued attractiveness of Open Internet ideals, the online world has changed drastically from the early freewheeling days of maximum free speech with minimum limitations. Today, technological giants like Meta and Twitter are content arbitrators, deciding what stays online and what goes and/or suspending, blocking or removing social media accounts.

Tech companies in South-east Asia walk a difficult tightrope, especially when dealing with political out-of-bounds (OB) markers from regional governments enacting legislation pressuring the former to censor public speech deemed “harmful to society”.

The challenge social networks face is determining what content is objectionable enough to be removed while protecting users’ expectations of being free to express themselves and engage with others. As the digital public sphere is increasingly where many political discussions reside and public opinion affects political fortunes, it is not surprising that disagreements occur as various parties battle to control content moderation.

For example, the Indonesian Minister of Communication and Information Technology recently introduced Ministerial Regulation 5 (MR5) on Private Electronic System Operators, which requires all companies providing online services, businesses and platforms in the country to comply with content removal orders within 24 hours. This law aims to protect the public from unlawful “prohibited content”. In urgent situations involving potential cases of terrorism and child sexual abuse, or content that may cause “unrest in society or disturbs public order”, the timeframe is only four hours.

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Pauline Leong - The Straits Times

29 July 2022