Censorship on OTT Platforms: Is it Necessary?

Do you think uncensored content in these platforms could affect the morality of our society?

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Gone are the days when we call in sick to catch the episodes of our favourite dramas or sports on TV, or when husbands and wives argued over whether to watch “Ombak Rindu” or Malaysian Super league football matches which will not be repeated because now we have been introduced to a new world known as ‘Over The Top’ or most commonly known as OTT platforms.

Talking about OTT platforms, the first thing that comes to our mind is Netflix, Disney Hotstar plus, Amazon and so on. In Malaysia, the first OTT industry was pioneered by Media Prima Bhd’s ‘tonton’ seven years ago. However, these OTT platforms have its own challenges especially in the regulatory uncertainty on censorship of the contents. Therefore, the question arises – Is it necessary to censor the OTT platform contents?

In Malaysia, we have several regulations which control censorship. Firstly, the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA) plays the basic role to control, regulate, and censor the contents of online media in Malaysia. Next, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content code also plays a part in setting out specific guidelines on approved and prohibited contents of online broadcasting with closed content guidelines. The Film Censorship Act 2002 also regulates all types of movies and films in Malaysia on sensitive issues, and even though we have many regulating laws on censorship, some of these laws may be obsolete to cope up with the 21st century challenges such as OTT platforms.

Section 3 of the CMA stipulates not to impose censorship on the internet and, OTT service provides consider the CMA 1998 and the Censorship Act 2020 as not mandatory. However, Section 211 and 233 of CMA regulates application service providers to censor content, despite the government’s vow of “no internet censorship”. It also seems to be impossible for any government to completely restrict the contents of the internet. There are various ways to get around these constraints when it comes to broadcasting. Sections 211 and 233 are essentially integrated in the CMA which is in place to protect individuals from offensive content and not to censor them completely. There are also no specific laws specifically for online platforms, and current laws only imply these platforms in its restrictions which made the restrictions become uncertain to be applied.

Unfortunately, the OTT platforms without censorship can affect the morality of our society. Morality or ethics according to H J Paton, is the study of the supreme good. Morality in jurisprudence has been broadly defined as “all of the rules, standards, principles, or norms, by which men regulate, guide and control their interactions with themselves and others. Morals are more concerned with shaping a character, but laws are concerned with the society and norms governing people’s interactions with one another and with the state. However, morals and law can be connected where morals can become the basis of law, as the test of (positive) law and as the end of the law.

The connection between morality and the law can be seen in the censorship on OTT platforms. The censorship on OTT platforms can ruin morality without a proper law regulating it. For instance, some content on these platforms uses soft porn and vulgarity to attract viewers. Such elements can affect society especially when it involves the youngsters who may emulate what they see. Violence and aggressive content may also lead a person to mimic what they observe. There could be a likelihood that some people watching these elements with a strong interest to start behaving the same way as the movies. The character in them will be ruined without proper regulation. This is the correlation that shows that the morality of a society can be affected by movies or serials without censorship.

Therefore, it brings back to the question: is it necessary to censor the contents of the OTT platforms since the uncensored contents in these platforms could affect the morality of our society? Perhaps our country should have a special law or regulations for censoring online broadcasting services for the betterment of society and hopefully, the crime rates related to morality will reduce eventually.

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**The facts and views expressed are solely that of the author/authors and do not necessarily reflect that of the editorial board