Mahathir: Social media allows me to irritate a lot of people

KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/Asia News Network) - It is necessary to censor alternative or social media in order to "block out all this filth that comes to us through the Internet", said former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Thursday.

"Not to block out chedet.com. Please don't block that out. But to block out all this filth that comes to us through the Internet," Dr Mahathir said in a speech to laughter from the audience at the World Bloggers and Social Media Summit in Kuala Lumpur. Chedet.com is the name of his popular blog.

In his speech, titled Social Media And The Future: View From An Elder Statesman, Dr Mahathir said social media is good for him, as it enables him to "irritate a lot of people".

"Of course if there is something important you have to do, even if it causes irritation to some people… like saying somebody should resign.

"What's wrong with resignation? I resigned," he added, referring to his recent repeated blog posts calling for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to step down.

Dr Mahathir also said he was told that 30 million people accessed his blog, "but they don't pay me anything".

"If I charged them 10 sen, I might be a millionaire by now. But it doesn't matter - as long as I get the message to them," he added.

However, he urged others not to misuse social media, as irritation can cause conflict.

He related how he chaired a meeting of experts in the communications industry during his tenure as premier.

"They told me I must never censor the Internet. I thought that was very reasonable. So I said no, we must not censor the Internet," he added.

However, he has changed his mind, likening social media to the knife.

"With a knife, you can carve beautiful objects. You can also stab another person and kill him.

"The alternative media is like a knife. It can be used for the good of society or it can be used to make society less livable," said Dr Mahathir.

Describing himself as curious and "not very computer savvy", he decided to type "sex" as a keyword to see what he could get.

"Sure enough, I got a lot of filth. Dirty pictures. I think even a young child of three years old could spell out 'sex' and get all this dirt.

"And they will grow up with this filth filling their brains and they will not be good for society. It's easy to access. Not so easy to prevent children, especially teenagers.

"Teens are very excitable. They have grown new appendages, and when they get excited in the wrong way, they do the wrong things. So we have a lot of sex crimes nowadays," he added.

Now in its fourth edition, the World Bloggers and Social Media Summit is held in conjunction with Malaysia Social Media Week.

Dr Mahathir was credited as the first person to suggest the idea of discussing social media and legitimising the role of social media in Malaysia in his keynote address six years ago.

Jointly organised by Malaysia Social Media Chambers (SMC) and My Events International, the event aims at connecting people, content and conversations around emerging trends in social and mobile media.

It features a diverse roster of more than 30 international speakers and social media specialists from about 10 countries.

They include Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan, Social@Ogilvy regional director Jonathan Nguyen, India's Bharatiya Janata Party national head of information technology Arvind Gupta, and Lenovo social data consultant Anna Rokina.