Twitter ignores Malaysian government's request to censor Tweets about flood response

An aerial view of a flooded area in Klang during the December 2021 Malaysian floods. Screenshot was originally uploaded on YouTube by AiMediaMY under (CC BY 3.0)

The Malaysian government has asked Twitter to censor posts criticizing its disaster response to record flooding as they allegedly violate the country’s laws. Twitter acknowledged the request yet refused to instantly delete the posts, citing its commitment to uphold freedom of expression.

On December 17, torrential rains triggered Malaysia’s worst flooding in recent years. The floods left 41 dead and displaced more than 61,000 people.

The government was accused of being slow in conducting rescue and relief efforts. Internet users commented on the lack of preparation of agencies despite an early advisory about the threat of flooding. On Twitter, the hashtag #DoNotDonateToGovernment and the phrase ‘do not donate to government’ trended in Malaysia after several officials initiated a fund drive for relief operations. Twitter users questioned the need for donations when citizens are already paying their taxes.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) reacted to the criticism by saying ‘obscene’ tweets related to the flooding disaster violate Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 since they harm the ‘national interest’.

Soon, several Twitter users received notices from the legal team of Twitter that their posts were flagged for deletion by the Malaysian government. Twitter informed them that the posts will not be removed for now but advised them to make appropriate action for their legal protection and safety.

The tweet mentioned ‘rakyat’ which means people in Bahasa.

Tweets that criticized the donation drive and the comment of authorities about the eligibility of flood victims in claiming aid were reported by MCMC to Twitter.

Some users ended up deleting tweets to avoid legal trouble.

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) criticized the MCMC for “being used as a shield to protect government failures.” It also has a message to authorities:

Focus public resources towards providing timely and accessible updates and information on the flood and ongoing flood relief work, instead of cracking down on those being critical or dissenting towards alleged flood mismanagement by the State.

CIJ added that it’s time to overhaul the CMA which has been abused by authorities to suppress legitimate dissent.

Charles Santiago, a Member of Parliament (MP), praised Twitter for refusing the request of the Malaysian government:

Lim Kit Siang, another MP, urged the prime minister to punish MCMC officials for trying to censor tweets:

The Prime Minister, Ismail Sabri should reprimand the MCMC and declare that he will not stop Malaysians from exercising their constitutional right to free speech to criticise the government and his Ministers.

In fact, Ismail should order a full inquiry into the MCMC action asking Twitter to remove posts critical of the government’s response to the recent flood disaster, and even remove the MCMC officials responsible.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.