A quick scroll on social media would indicate that Malaysians’ news feeds are typically saturated with endless news of petty politicking, dress code fiascos, and heated arguments. Grown men can’t seem to agree when it comes to deciding on a logo to display their patriotism on Merdeka Day.
With all this insignificant information populating our feeds and filling up our attention spans, news that matters, those that have tangible impacts on society, often goes under the radar. A good example? The fact that child sex crimes are on the rise, having doubled in cases since 2018.
Topping the Charts in South-East Asia for Child Pornography
While we are great at many things, Malaysia, unfortunately, does not have the best track record when it comes to protecting our children from sexual predators, especially in the virtual space.
The track record is very poor. Child porn is easily accessible in our country: in 2022, the Malaysian Police have identified as many as 49,621 IP addresses linked to child pornography(only 9,017 IP addresses were identified in 2019), and as of January 2023, has further identified another 8,435 addresses.
An increasing number of predators are also downloading and keeping this despicable material: in 2020, 147 IP addresses were found to be downloading the material, and this number had risen to 9,507 in 2022.
Interestingly, external data had already shown that close to 20,000 IP addresses in Malaysia were being used to upload and download photographs and visuals of child pornography in 2018, making it the highest in Southeast Asia at the time.
The jarring disparity between the number of externally identified IP addresses in 2018 versus the 9,017 that were identified by the Malaysian police in 2019 begets attention: why the gap, and are there any remedial steps taken to rectify this?
The Main Culprits: Poor Legislation, Limited Manpower
Current legislative provisions that Malaysia has pertaining to online child sexual exploitation are severely limited.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC), for example, has limited authority over Internet Service Providers(ISP), as under current laws, they are not obliged to block, delete or even report any information on child pornography. It gets even more complicated when the Data Protection Act(2010) comes into play: even if investigators manage to track down suspicious IP addresses, the Data Protection Act prevents them from legally determining if any exchange of pornographic material has taken place.
The number of follow-ups and consequent arrests made after identifying suspicious IP addresses are also shockingly few. In early 2022, only 103 of the reported addresses were tracked, which led to the arrest of a mere 50 individuals.
Polis DiRaja Malaysia (PDRM) Sexual, Women and Children Crime Investigation Division (D11) principal assistant director ACP Siti Kamsiah Hassan has attributed this to the lack of manpower and technically competent staff, especially in digital forensics.
The information received will be examined by the Malaysian Internet Crime Against Children (MICAC) D11 investigation unit which currently only consists of three investigating officers with the rank of Inspector. – Siti Kamsiah Hassan, Polis DiRaja Malaysia (PDRM) Sexual, Women and Children Crime Investigation Division (D11) principal assistant director
Is Enough Being Done to Protect Our Children?
Such sobering statistics force us to take a hard look at the various measures we have in place to protect children from abuse and to curb the further proliferation of child pornography material.
In 2019, then Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh announced that the Ministry would roll out the nation’s first sexual offender register, which catalogues the names of sexual predators reported from 2017 onwards.
Initially dubbed as a ‘feel-good’ initiative, not much has changed over the past four years. The list remains inaccessible to the general public, and the criteria for inclusion remain unclear, raising questions about its effectiveness, particularly in roles involving children.
This isn’t to say that the government has not done anything significant to address this issue. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim recently announced a crucial development in the fight against child pornography. In the Budget for 2023, plans were unveiled to establish a dedicated unit to eradicate child pornography activities.
The unit, known as the Malaysia Internet Crime Against Children (MICAC) Investigation Unit, will operate under PDRM’s D11 Unit, providing critical support to intensify the police’s efforts against such perpetrators.
With the recent Budget, our team now has a total of 46 personnel, with each police contingent [state] having at least one or two officers dealing with such cases. – Siti Kamsiah Hassan
The MICAC unit has seen an increase in personnel and now extends its presence to every state in the country, signifying a substantial expansion in its reach and capabilities.
The MICAC unit is also currently training experts to tackle cybersexual crimes, as special knowledge and skills are needed to hunt and track down these online criminals – Siti Kamsiah Hassan
Recently, the team had ramped up collaborative efforts with international organisations such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) to arrest perpetrators.
One such arrest was that of a 39-year-old man in Klang, who was found in possession of ‘extremely large amounts’ of child pornography material on his laptop. The perpetrator had used social media to communicate with his victims and forced them into providing him with pornographic material.
Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil has hinted at the necessity of updating laws to safeguard children from sexual crimes. However, the process of making impactful amendments to the Communications and Multimedia Act of 1998 feels distant to many and understandably so.
We need to study whether parts of the Communications and Multimedia Act need to be amended to save and protect women and children. This must be done without curbing whatever commitments the government has made to IT companies before” – Fahmi Fadzil, Communications and Digital Minister
For Now, The Onus is On Parents to Protect Children
It is clear by now that many legislative improvements should be made to curb child pornography, but it is a lengthy process. Parents remain the first line of defence, notes Siti Kamsiah, as up to 90% of such activities happen online, and victims are often not chosen at random but are part of a highly calculated, manipulative selection process.
They would take time to know their victim’s hobbies and interests, and then use social media channels such as TikTok, Instagram, gaming and even dating platforms to bond with and eventually influence their victims.
Alladin Lanim, one of the most prolific child paedophiles in the world, was a master in luring children by connecting with them through ‘shared’ interests. In the sleepy town of Lundu, Sarawak, he would use mobile games to lure young boys to get comfortable with him. Once trust was built, Lanim coerced the boys into watching pornographic videos and abused them.
Arrested in 2021 through a joint effort between the Australian Police and PDRM, he would eventually be found guilty not only of molesting boys but also of the dissemination of 1,000 explicit pictures of children on the dark web.
With female victims, perpetrators will play on their vulnerability and emotions to manipulate them into sharing pictures of themselves.
The perpetrator also often showers them with praises and sweet words, like telling them they are beautiful while asking them to share pictures of themselves. They then take it a step further by saying they would look even more beautiful without clothes. If the girls decline, the perpetrator uses manipulative tactics like pressuring them, making them feel guilty or pretending to feel upset that their request was turned down. – Siti Kamsiah Hassan
The fact that most victims are between the age of 13-15 and that 90% of perpetrators are people who are known to the children, like family members, neighbours and relatives makes it even more pertinent that parents keep a watchful eye over their children.
Parents need to monitor their child’s activities because such cases can occur even if the child is at home. There’s also a need for children to be educated on what is safe and what red flags to look out for with people, such as the way people touch them or make requests of them. – Siti Kamsiah Hassan
Working Together to Create a Safer Future
Curbing child pornography is a collaborative effort involving not only governmental agencies and parents but also numerous dedicated NGOs actively contributing to the cause.
These organisations play a pivotal role in various aspects, including imparting essential sexual education to children, establishing anonymous reporting hotlines, and efficiently managing cases related to this issue.
#1: Protect and Save the Children (PS The Children)
PS The Children is the only social organisation in Malaysia that focuses on the prevention, treatment and intervention of child sexual abuse. They offer services that are based on the four pillars of education, advocacy, case management and treatments.
Contact: +6016-2273065; +6016-7213065
#2: Monsters Among Us (MAU)
A youth-led NGO that aims to combat systemic violence against children in Malaysia through youth-led child rights advocacy. Key initiatives include the child-friendly reporting hotline, Lapor Predator; the online safety workshop, Catch Em Predator; the sexual education initiative, My Body My Rules; and the MAU Reading Club.
Contact: 019-990 3394
#3: Women’s Aid Organisation(WAO)
An NGO that provides shelter and aid for women and children facing violence. Their WhatsApp hotline, TINA, is available 24/7.
#4: Childline Foundation
Established in 2006 as a non-profit organisation committed to safeguarding children’s rights in Malaysia, the foundation has collaborated with the Internet Watch Foundation to launch the Malaysian Internet Watch Foundation Portal. This portal allows the public to report instances of Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) found on the Internet.
Phone: 016 333 4228
#5: Other Hotlines – For immediate support reach out to these hotlines below:
- Call Talian Kasih: 15999 or WhatsApp 019-2615999 to seek help and emotional support
- Cyber 999: 019 266 5850
Explore Our Sources:
- The Star.(2023). More Accessing Child Porn in Malaysia. Link.
- The Straits Times. (2018). Malaysia tops in Southeast Asia for online child pornography. Link.
- Department of Statistics Malaysia. (2022). Fight Against Cyber Paedophilia. Link.
- NST. (2022). Police Receive Thousands of IP Addresses Suspected of Sharing Child Pornography. Link.
- The Borneo Post. (2021). Allow Easier Public Access to Sex Offenders’ List. Link.
- Galen Center. (2023). Budget 2023: Government Will Establish Unit To Combat Child Pornography. Link.
- Head Topics. (2022). Special Police Unit to Fight Child Porn Expanded to Every State. Link.
- The Star. (2022). Selangor, Johor Have Most Child Porn Cases. Link.
- FMT. (2022). Cops Nab Man with Child Porn in Klang. Link.
- FMT. (2023). Communications and Multimedia Act may be Amended to Protect Kids. Link.
- Says. (2021). Australia Police Find World’s Most Wanted Paedophil In Rural Sarawak. Link.