Malaysian censorship doesn’t cross borders but what if you’re a Malaysian startup?

The White House did ask YouTube to check if there was a violation of terms of service for the recent video that’s causing the Muslim world to go up in storm. It seems like there isn’t, and the video continues to stay up. Good on Google, good on YouTube, and here’s a win to freedom of expression & speech.

Today I see Dr. Rais Yatim, Information Communication & Culture Minster of Malaysia ask for YouTube to remove the movie. Its just smart that he realizes that YouTube isn’t controlled & created in Malaysia so its not “without our technical capability” to remove it.

There are some problems with this line of thought.

  1. If you are a company in Malaysia, hosting user generated content, you may be subject to censorship. Will it make a difference if you’re an MSC status company as there is a bill of guarantees? Or does it not matter?
  2. Rais continues on that Malaysia is an Islamic nation. It is a secular nation with Islam as the religion of the federation. It is a great pity he chooses to skew facts on what is supposed to be Malaysia Day today.
  3. Censorship without due course. Malaysia has many obscure laws that are passed as acts of parliament while the current ruling regime has been in power since independence. They have been so used to just sending notices for removals that they’ve forgotten that they need to consult the law. And chances are there are many laws that affect freedoms of speech & expression, even though they may be constitutionally protected. Companies incorporating in Malaysia need to take this into consideration.

Its good that Google isn’t simply buckling under pressure (another):

Google Malaysia communications and public affairs head Zeffri Yusof said they received the official request from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and that both parties were discussing the next course of action.

“Google adheres to the laws of the land in every country it has a domain in. So, (we) will act based on official complaints from the regulatory bodies,” he said.

Zeffri added, however, that the regulatory body had to cite the relevant laws or bylaws which were breached when making its complaint.

Now the onus is on the MCMC to show what laws the video contravenes so that YouTube can block it for all those coming from .my domainspace. 

What does this do to already poor investor sentiment? What does this mean for startups? What happens when some zealot finds a subversive message in Gangnam Style that may cause all the follow-ups to be deemed anti-religion?

YouTube has a message questioning if you should really be looking at the video. Adults should well, learn to behave like adults.

Muhammad Movie Trailer - YouTube

People to follow: Zeffri Yusof on Twitter is @zeffri. There’s also @GoogleMsia. Google+ account for +Google Malaysia.

Related posts:

  1. Updates on Malaysian censorship/filtering
  2. Job: Java developers for a startup
  3. On startup factories
  4. Marina crying foul over censorship?
  5. Bloggers face draconian anti-terrorism laws in Malaysia

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