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Cambodia expands monitoring of 'fake news'

Concern over censorship as TikTok, WhatsApp, Telegram and Messenger are added to a watch list of social apps

UCA News reporter, Phnom Penh

UCA News reporter, Phnom Penh

Published: January 28, 2021 08:57 AM GMT

Updated: January 28, 2021 09:14 AM GMT

Cambodia expands monitoring of 'fake news'

Cambodia’s Information Ministry is expanding its monitoring of social media posts to include closed-source platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram and Messenger and has added TikTok to the list of open-source platforms alongside Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Director-general of information and broadcasting Phos Sovann said the government was concerned about posts regarding Covid-19 and vaccines but added there had been no concerns regarding fake news so far this year.

Despite this, closed-source mainstream social media platforms, including Telegram, WhatsApp and Messenger, that share information as groups or individuals are to be monitored for fake news that is also actively shared on these platforms, he told the government-friendly Khmer Times.

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“This year TikTok is also on the list,” Phos Sovann said.

“We have observed that TikTok has been used by some people in the wrong way. Before, it was just an application that our younger generation used for playing games and having fun, but now we have seen some people are distorting messages from leaders to sow discontent.”

In mid-2018, Cambodia announced that all domestic and international internet traffic would pass through the data management center run by state-owned Telecom Cambodia. This followed a request by the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

According to social media analytics website NapoleonCat, as of December 2020 Facebook had recorded 11,786,000 users in Cambodia or 69.5 percent of the population.

Phos Sovann said in 2020 there were 1,343 cases of fake news, incitement and insults that were found on social media, mainly on Facebook.

There were around 200 Facebook accounts that had action taken against them. Some were sent to the national police while others were reported to Facebook and to the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications for removal.

The monitoring has caused an outcry among human rights groups and free press advocates amid a crackdown on the independent press in Cambodia which emerged ahead of elections in 2018.

But defamation and bullying have also emerged as a major headache.

The latest case involves two female tycoons, with police searching for a famous online lotion vendor accused of defaming the reputation and honor of another young tycoon in a Facebook post.

Major Ly Sothy said Ean Siv Mey was being sued by Nim Vannak, owner of a real estate company and a former online vendor, over two posts.

One said: “You became rich because you also sold online products like me. You swear abuse! Beware of your husband dying. Your first husband died once. He died before children. Your last husband died after having two children.”

In December, Ean Siv Mey wrote another Facebook post saying: “I have a mother and a father, unlike you. You do not have a mother or father to advise you; your brain is all dogs. Your brain is stool.”

Ly Sothy said she had been charged with “public defamation and incitement to commit a felony” under Articles 305, 494 and 495 of the Criminal Code after failing to show up in court for questioning.

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