Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Commission (MCMC) | Suruhanjaya Komunikasi dan Multimedia Malaysia (SKMM)

Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil says he has raised the issue of Facebook scam ads with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and within his ministry (KKD). Meta has been notoriously allowing scammers to use its social media to run scam ads impersonating Malaysian brands and public figures.

As shared by the MCMC recently, they have removed 2,731 fake accounts and impersonation pages across multiple social media platforms from 2020 to November 2022. However, they have shared that existing regulatory policies are not effective in handling platforms hosted overseas which include Facebook.

In a recent tweet, Fahmi says the government is currently studying, accessing the best mechanism including possibly enhancing legal and regulatory framework to tackle the issue. The MCMC told us that Meta will be updating the minister on 12th January 2023.

For the longest time, Meta has failed to tackle scam ads which have caused huge financial losses to scam victims in Malaysia. The social media company keeps saying it has mechanisms in place to prevent such activities but yet we can see scam ads that could have been prevented easily.

From what we are told, there’s nobody at Meta Malaysia office that could delete or act on scam ads that were reported by Malaysians as they rely on their global team for further action. As we’ve documented extensively, most notable scam ads are still running more than 72 hours after it was widely reported.

Malaysia should make it mandatory for all social media platforms to have a local-based moderation team

Since Meta couldn’t use technology to solve the scam ads problem, it is their responsibility to use manual interventions to approve and review ads. For a company that makes billions of dollars in revenue from ads, platforms including Meta should make the necessary investments in Malaysia to ensure its advertisements are safe and are not intended for scam activities. Most of these scam ads could have been prevented if Meta conducts basic checks and due diligence on their advertisers.

The most immediate action that the government could take is to make it mandatory for all large-scale social media platforms to form a moderation team that will manually review ads that target Malaysian users. Any ad campaigns created from newly created pages with less than 10,000 followers/likes or have a recent page name change must be subjected to manual checks before the ads can go live. If a scam ad is reported, the ads must be reviewed immediately and taken down within 24 hours. Any takedown request for scam ads by the MCMC must be acted upon within 4 hours. Social media platforms that refuse to comply must cease all advertising activities targeting Malaysians.

Meta scam ads are a global problem

In the United Kingdom, Meta has allowed scam ads impersonating Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis. After taking legal action against Facebook for over 1,000 scam ads that misused his name and image, the social media platform settled the lawsuit by donating GBP 3 million (about RM16 million) to an anti-scam action group and launched a scam ad reporting button.

In a recent parliamentary committee hearing, Martin said if social media platforms can’t solve the problem technically, they would have to solve it manually. Every single ad that they put up should simply be taken down manually.

“The issue of your technology and the idea that you have defined as having a technological solution to scams that destroy people’s lives, mental health and finances, and leave people in a hideous situation and are absolutely incredibly disruptive… The idea that it has to be a technological solution is simply wrong. If you can’t, this is a function of your profits, you’re going to take a hit to the income that you have, which is enormous and vast.” he said.

He also criticised the government for delays in legislation to fight scam ads on social media. Although the UK has introduced the online safety bill, he said it won’t be in force until 2024 or 2025 in practical terms. He questioned, then how many more people will be scammed in the meantime?

While he has taken legal action against Facebook a few years ago, he said Parliament is still dilly-dallying over getting something that’s transparently in the public interest which is stopping scam adverts targeting vulnerable people.

In Australia, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) sued Meta for allowing scam ads on its platform. It alleged that Meta has engaged in false, misleading or deceptive conduct by publishing scam advertisements featuring prominent Australian public figures. The commission’s chairman Rod Sims said Meta is responsible for ads that it publishes on its platform and should have been doing more to detect and then remove false or misleading ads on Facebook, to prevent consumers from falling victim to ruthless scammers.