Authorities in Malaysia have warned of a surge in ethnic hatred on social media following an inconclusive general election, prompting short video platform TikTok to say on Wednesday that it was on high alert for anything that breaches its guidelines.
No new government will be formed after Saturday’s election results in a historically rare hung parliament, with neither of the two main coalitions having enough members to govern alone.
TikTok, owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, said, “We continue to be on high alert and will aggressively remove any violative content.”
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According to TikTok, the company has been in touch with Malaysian authorities about significant and persistent violations of its community guidelines since the run-up to the election.
Former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin is leading a conservative Muslim organisation, primarily ethnic Malay, that is part of one of the alliances trying to establish a government.
The Islamist PAS party is a part of it; it has pushed for a literal application of Islamic sharia law. Concerns have been expressed about its political success in a country with sizable Chinese and Indian minorities, most of whom adhere to other religions.
Anwar Ibrahim, a veteran opposition leader, is at the helm of the other alliance vying for control. This group comprises more multiethnic, progressive parties, including the Democratic Action Party, which is primarily ethnic Chinese and has a checkered history of support among Malay voters.
Users of the video-sharing app TikTok have reported a rise in content since the election that references a riot that occurred in Kuala Lumpur on May 13, 1969, days after opposition parties backed by ethnic Chinese voters made inroads in an election and resulted in the deaths of around 200 people.
According to a company statement, videos with content related to May 13 that did not follow the platform’s community guidelines were banned because TikTok has “zero tolerance” for hate speech and violent extremism.
TikTok did not want to comment on how many posts were removed or how many complaints were submitted.
Some parents complained to Reuters that their children were exposed to inappropriate material, so the company said it would delete accounts belonging to anyone younger than 13 years old.
Around one hundred films were examined by Reuters, and several of them showed users brandishing knives and machetes. A few of them urged “young Malay warriors” to “remember the May 13 incident” and rally behind Anwar.
Many ethnic Malay users have responded by posting films condemning those instigating violence and explaining the context of the May 13 unrest.
The police warned those who use social media to stop sharing “provocative” content, stating that they had seen comments that made racial and religious references and insulted the monarchy.
A meeting of the hereditary sultans has been summoned for Thursday so the King can choose the prime minister.
The PAS released a statement urging all parties to uphold constitutional values, maintain public order, and refrain from acts of provocation that could disrupt national unity.
Anwar said that attempts to construct a responsible and stable government should not lead to chaos.
Concerned about “the racial emotions and vitriol that continue to be advocated by a few with desperate and vested interests,” he released a statement on Tuesday.
On roadways around the country, police have announced they will be stationed around the clock to maintain public safety.
In addition, police reported the arrest of a guy in Selangor state, close to Kuala Lumpur, for making threats against the monarch on Instagram and calling members of a particular ethnic community corrupt.
A message sent to Instagram for comment went unanswered for some time.
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