Social Media Policy and Regulation: A Network Governance Perspective

By: Sonny Zulhuda

The above is the name of the event in Tsinghua University, Beijing, on December 3-4, 2016, where I came as a speaker to the audience consisted of law, media and Internet governance academia and practitioners. Both Beijing-based School of Journalism and Communication of Tsinghua University and the School of Communication of Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) jointly organised this event.

The invitation came to me through Dr. Yik Chan Chin of the HKBU, who is with me at the Global Internet Governance Academic Network (GigaNet). Upon few exchanges of emails, I was then invited to come and present my views on the social media regulations in the Malaysian perspective. I must say that the event was really a rewarding experience; filled with substantial discussions, new perspectives and, of course, new friends and network!


This can be highlighted from the list of the speakers of the two-day workshop:

  1. Professor Yu Hu, School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University
  2. Dr. Xiaodong Li, Director of CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center)
  3. Dr. Chen Hua, Vice Professor of Beijing Internet Information Office
  4. Professor Chenfeng Chen, School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University
  5. Dr. Yik Chan Chin, School of Communication, Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU)
  6. Ms. Joyce Lai, Head of Compliance of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) Hong Kong
  7. Ms. Amy Chan, Head of Complaints & Enquiries of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) Hong Kong
  8. Ms. Xuan Jin, Director of WeChat Security Risk Control Center, Tencent
  9. Mr. Yuxian Zhao, Security Think Tank, Tencent
  10. Dr. Sonny Zulhuda, International Islamic University Malaysia
  11. Dr. Jia Dai, School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University
  12. Professor Eun-mee Kim, Seoul National University, South Korea
  13. Professor Yong Cui, Department of Computer Science and Technology Tsinghua University
  14. Professor Jing Wu, School of Journalism and Communication, Peking University
  15. Ms. Qi Yu, Operation Manager of Media and Government Affairs Department, Sina Weibo
  16. Professor Danlin Li, Department of Law, Communication University of China
  17. Dr. Dorien Kartikawangi and Ms. Ni Luh Ratih from Atma Jaya Catholic University, Indonesia
  18. Dr. Adrienne Massanari, University of Illinois at Chicago
  19. Mr. Xuegeng Yin, Social Forum Management Deputy Director, Sina Weibo
  20. Mr. Feng Qian, Public Affairs Senior Manager, Sina Weibo
  21. Ms. Ju Ee Chia, Assistant Director of Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore
  22. Mr. Nicholas Lim, Executive of Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore
  23. Mr. Raymond Li, Former Head of BBC Chinese, Senior Lecturer of HKBU
  24. Dr. Junqian Qiu, School of Journalism and Communication, Communication University of China
  25. Dr. Jingwei Wu, School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University

2B8A7362The background of this International Workshop is summarised by the organiser as follows:

The growth of social media applications such as micro blogs, messaging software, photo and video sharing apps during the past few years has been phenomenal. Social media – characterized by participation, openness, conversation, community and connectedness – are creating new communication opportunities, and also presenting novel regulatory issues. Despite the fact that the fast growing of the Internet population and a rapidly expanding social media sector, its policy and regulatory implications are under-researched in the academic literature. The majority of scholarly work on the social media and the Internet in general and in the Chinese context in particular predominantly focus on the relationships between social media, applications, political control and their democratic potential while the regulation and governance of social media have received insufficient attentions. Meanwhile, the network governance, as one of patterns, has been emerging as a mechanism for the Internet and social media regulation, thus a rigorous discussion of social media and the Internet governance from different perspectives/approaches is very necessary.

The workshop aims to address two key sets of issues:

  1. The development of national communication and information technology regulatory policy in the realm of social media sector;
  2. The models of governance of social media, specifically with regard to the nature of networks between private and state actors, the patterns of private-state collaborations, and the distributions of benefits and power in the network governance of social media.

Issues such as online rumour, online advertising, online bullying/hate speech, privacy and data protection, intermediary liability, network neutrality will be discussed at the workshop.

IMG_6499My paper is entitled: “Self-Regulation in the Use of Social Media: An Obvious-but-tricky Choice?” This was focusing on the context of Malaysia. In Malaysia, social media had increasingly become a choice for public communications both at social and commercial spheres. The emergence of the digital natives together with a better connectivity had flourished the use of online accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin – among others.

The primary legislation regulating telecommunications and Internet industries, i.e. the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 had provided a beautifully designated self-regulatory mechanism for the Internet industries in governing their content. Nevertheless, 18 years later, the notion of self-regulation is still far from public sight, let alone real practice. Most of the legal issues surrounding social media such as defamation, sedition, hate-speech as well as privacy breaches have been subject to various legislation; and disputes would in most cases find their way in the court rooms. It highlighted a recent survey of how social media is regulated in Malaysia, more specifically picking up the cases of sedition, offensive speech and privacy breaches. It also highlights lessons learnt and proposed recommendations to move forward

This trip was my second after my ICANN Fellowship meeting three years earlier (2013). If the first trip was during a summer, this was the beginning of the winter! A new experience for me personally, at lower than 0 degree celcius. I remembered being almost frozen when I had to wait for a taxi at the roadside after the dawn. The temperature was way below -4 degree. Cold but sweet, as I had a rare opportunity to reconnect with my old time Chinese friends from IIUM: Brother Abdullah Ma and Sister Khadijah Mu. A truly rewarding trip in Beijing. Xie Xie!!

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