I was interviewed by The Star on the issue of legality of a local website that connects “sugar daddies” with “sugar babies”. In the article entitled “A raw nerve hit, but no laws broken“, I said the following:-
There is no law against couple matching services in Malaysia unless it is for prostitution or other illegal purposes, said Bar Council cyber law and information technology committee deputy chairman Foong Cheng Leong.
While the website’s service and users may be entering a moral grey area, Foong said “immoral doesn’t necessarily mean unlawful”.
“Payment for companionship is legal. This is unless the companionship falls under prohibited acts, which include prostitution and soliciting prostitution,” he said.
Foong was commenting on a Malaysia-based online dating platform which matches established, wealthy men or “sugar daddies” with women who are seeking financial support.
MCMC also said operating, providing and using an online service or application is not an offence under the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
“However, action can be taken if such a service is being used to disseminate illicit content such as obscenities, nudity, pornography and others,” it said.
Other enforcement agencies like the police may also pursue various actions under the relevant laws if there are elements of prostitution, extortion, blackmail and scams.
“Should consumers feel the app is inappropriate due to its content, they can reach out to the MCMC or the police. Investigations will be undertaken to assess if such contravene the existing laws.”
I was also interview by Digital New Asia on the same issue in their article “TheSugarBook – sweet endings or bitter disappointment?“. The relevant excerpts are as follow:-
One of the most-asked questions about TheSugarBook is whether or not such a service is legal.
“There is no law against couple matching services in Malaysia unless it is for prostitution or other illegal purposes,” says Foong Cheng Leong (pic, above), deputy chairperson of The Malaysian Bar’s Information Technology & Cyber Law Committee.
It must be pointed out that other popular dating apps such as Tinder or Grindr (a social networking app for LGBTQ people) could also have users who met on the app engaging in illegal activities outside of it. Many of these platforms do not enable users to report other users or have such strict regulations regarding user profiles as TheSugarBook does and it is quite usual for users to state on their profiles that they are only looking for casual sex.
According to Foong, such platforms should not be liable for what its users do outside the platform.
Though TheSugarBook does seem to be using discretion when it comes to ensuring no underage activity, none of these checks can actually guarantee that a user cannot lie their way through to a verified profile. A user could use someone else’s photo and enter their age as older, as they could on their Facebook profile, and a college student could very well be under 18.
However, being below 18 is not actually a legal requirement for registering a profile on a dating app in Malaysia. “Currently, there are no laws stipulating the minimum safety requirements of a couple matching platform,” says Foong.
“Assuming that a minor circumvents the age requirement and falsely pretends to be a person of 18 and above, I don’t think such platform would be doing anything illegal,” he continues.