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TikTok on 'high alert' in Malaysia as tensions rise over election wrangle

It says it has removed videos with May 13-related content that violate its community guidelines.

Reuters
2 minute read
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Police personnel stand guard outside Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 23, as the political drama continues in the wake of Saturday's inconclusive election which resulted in a hung parliament.
Police personnel stand guard outside Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 23, as the political drama continues in the wake of Saturday's inconclusive election which resulted in a hung parliament.

Short video platform TikTok said on today it was on high alert for content that violates its guidelines in Malaysia after authorities warned of a rise in ethnic tension on social media following an inconclusive general election.

Saturday's election ended in an unprecedented hung parliament with neither of two rival alliances able to secure enough seats in parliament to form a government.

"We continue to be on high alert and will aggressively remove any violative content," TikTok, which is owned by the China-based firm ByteDance, said in a statement.

TikTok said it had been in contact with Malaysian authorities on severe and repeat violations of its community guidelines since the lead-up to the election.

Social media users have reported numerous TikTok posts since the election that mentioned a riot in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, on May 13, 1969, in which about 200 people were killed, days after opposition parties supported by ethnic Chinese voters made inroads in an election.

TikTok said it had removed videos with May 13-related content that violated its community guidelines, saying it had "zero tolerance" for hate speech and violent extremism.

TikTok declined to reveal the number of posts it removed or the number of complaints it had received.

It told Reuters it would remove any accounts operated by users under the age of 13 after some parents complained that their children had been exposed to offensive content.

Reuters reviewed about 100 videos on TikTok, some of which featured people displaying weapons such as knives and machetes. Some addressed "young Malay warriors" and said Anwar's supporters should "remember the May 13 incident".

In response, a flood of videos explaining the history of the May 13 violence have surfaced with many ethnic Malay users calling for unity and criticising those inciting violence.

Police told social media users to refrain from posting "provocative" content, saying they had detected posts that touched on race and religion, and insulted the monarchy.