The government of Malaysia wants Internet firms including Facebook, Twitter and Google to curb Internet content in the interest of public safety.
The controversial demand has been announced after Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak had been accused of transferring some $700m from a state fund into his personal account.
Najib has categorically denied the allegations, which were reported by two Malaysian newspapers and websites.
Malaysia’s communications minister Salleh Said Keruak wrote on his blog that the government will meet with representatives of Facebook, Google and Twitter to enlist their help in combating ‘the increasing tide of false information and rumours’.
Prime Minister Najib chairs the advisory board of the1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad) fund, which currently has debts of more than $11bn. The fund is under investigation for allegations of graft and financial mismanagement. However, the investigating body said that the money transferred to Najib was a donation and not from 1MDB.
"The online environment is not a lawless space and action can be taken against anyone found to have breached the law, including in the online space," said the communications minister Keruak.
A Google spokesman in Kuala Lumpur said the Internet giant was "always in conversation with" the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, but he declined to comment on the request from the government on curbing content.
Facebook and Twitter were not immediately available for comment.
The prime minister sacked his deputy and other ministers last month after they questioned him publicly about the 1MDB affair. The government has suspended the two newspapers and a website that were reporting on 1MDB.
Pro-democracy activist Mandeep Singh Karpall said the government was trying to control freedom of expression by clamping down on social media where many Malaysians express political views, especially younger people.
"They're doing it to create a climate of fear," said Karpall, acting manager of the pro-democracy group Bersih that is organising an anti-government rally in the capital this month.
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