Beyond Likes and Shares: The Legal and Social Implications of Online Influencer in Malaysia

In today's digital age, social media has become an essential part of our daily lives. With the rise of social media, a new breed of celebrity has emerged – online influencer. An online influencer is someone who has built a substantial number of followers on social media platforms such as Instagram, Tik Tok and Red Post (Xiao Hong Shu). These influencers have the power to influence the purchasing decisions and opinions of their followers. However, with great power comes great responsibility. Online influencers can face various liabilities when promoting products, services or making endorsements online. Therefore, online influencers shall ensure its conduct to be compliant with the relevant regulations and guidelines.

Potential Liabilities of Online Influencers

Here are some potential liabilities that online influencers may face:-

  1. Legal Liability

    Online influencers must comply with laws related to advertising, consumer’s rights, defamation and intellectual property. They may face legal action for false or misleading advertising, infringing on intellectual property rights, violating consumer protection laws, or false and damaging statements about individuals or businesses through their social media platforms. For example, if an influencer makes false statements about a company’s products or services, and those statements cause harm to the company’s reputation or financial interests, the company may have grounds to bring a defamation suit against the influencer .
    Karen Freberg & 3 Ors, ‘Who are the social media influencers? A study of public perceptions of personality’ (2010) file:///C:/Users/HP/Downloads/Frebergetal2010-SMIs.pdf accessed on 4 March 2023
  2. Contractual Liability

    Online influencers may enter into contracts with brands, agencies or other parties for sponsored posts, brand endorsements, or product placements. They may be held liable for breaching contract obligations, such as failing to deliver agreed-upon content or promoting products that they are not authorized to promote.
  3. Reputation Liability

    Online influencers may face reputation damage due to offensive or controversial content they post or endorse. They may also face backlash from followers or consumers who feel that their posts are inauthentic or manipulative.
  4. Privacy Liability

    Online influencers may inadvertently disclose personal information of themselves or others, which could lead to legal and social issues related to privacy violations.
  5. Endorsement Liability

    Online influencers may face liability if their endorsements of products or services are deemed deceptive, false or misleading.
  6. See Tan Chong & Son Motor Co Sdn Bhd v Borneo Motors (M) Sdn Bhd [2001] 3 MLJ 140 Eun Ah Ryu and Eun Kyoung Han, 'Scoail Media Influencer's Reputation: Developing and validating a Multidimensional Scale' (2021) accessed file:///C:/Users/HP/Downloads/Social_Media_Influencers_Reputation_Developing_an.pdf on 4 March 2023

Therefore, it is vital for online influencers to understand their legal and social responsibilities and comply with the relevant laws and regulations to avoid potential liabilities.

Legal and Social Responsibilities of Online Influencers

In Malaysia, online influencers are subject to certain laws, regulations and guidelines that govern their conduct. Here are some of the legal and social responsibilities that online influencers in Malaysia should be aware of:-

  1. Disclosure of Sponsored Content

    One of the key responsibilities of online influencers in Malaysia is to disclose sponsored content. Sponsored content refers to posts or videos where an influencer receives payment or other benefits in exchange for promoting a product or service. Under the Malaysian Code of Advertising Practice, online influencers are required to disclose any sponsored content in a clear and prominent manner. Failure to do so could result in penalties or fines.
  2. Protecting Consumer Rights

    Online influencers in Malaysia are also responsible for safeguarding the rights of consumers. This involves providing accurate information about the products or services they promote, and avoiding making false or misleading claims. Online influencers should also refrain from endorsing products that could harm consumers or that violate any laws or regulations.
  3. Respect Intellectual Property Rights of Others

    Another important responsibility of online influencers in Malaysia is to respect the intellectual property rights of others. This includes not using copyrighted material without permission, and avoiding the use of trademarks or logos in a manner that could be considered infringing.
  4. Ethical Conduct

    Online influencers in Malaysia are also expected to maintain ethical conduct. This includes refraining from using discriminatory language or behavior, avoiding hate speech or harassment, and avoiding promoting illegal activities or substances.

The Law Governing Online Influencers in Malaysia

In Malaysia, the advertising industry is largely self-regulated. Whilst there may not be a specific set of law that is exclusively dedicated to regulating online influencers, there are several laws and guidelines that apply to the conduct of online influencers on social media platforms and that include and not limited to:-

  1. The Malaysian Code of Advertising Practice

    The Malaysian Code of Advertising Practice is a set of guidelines that regulates the conduct of advertisers, including online influencers. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASC) serves as a voluntary alternative to government regulation and its main role is to maintain and enforce ethical standards in advertising, which helps to protect consumers from false or misleading claim.
    Advertising Standards Malaysia (ASA), ‘Malaysian Code of Advertising Practice, Protecting Consumer Rights’ (6th edn, 2010) accessed on 4 March 2023
  2. The Personal Data Protection Act 2010

    The Personal Data Protection Act 2010 is a law that regulates the collection, use and disclosure of personal data. Online influencers in Malaysia must comply with the PDPA when collecting personal data from their followers.
  3. The Copyright Act

    The Copyright Act 1987 is a law that governs copyright protection in Malaysia. Online influencers must obtain permission before using copyrighted material in their posts or videos.

Platform to Lodge Complaints about Potentially Non-Compliant Advertisements

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASC) provides a platform for the public to lodge complaints about potentially non-compliant advertisements. The complaints can be submitted through the ASC’s website, either by email or by post. The ASC has a standard complaint form and procedure for investigation. Do check it out on and

Improving the Law Governing Online Influencers

As the influence of online influencers continues to grow, it is essential for the Malaysian government to keep abreast of the changing landscape. One way to improve the law governing online influencers is to provide more guidance on ethical conduct and best practices and enact law to make the penalties against the ‘law breaker’ to be legally binding and enforceable in court. The government could also consider providing more resources to help online influencers understand their legal and social responsibilities.


In conclusion, it is important for online influencers to be mindful of the potential legal risks associated with their social media activities and conduct, and to be aware of the importance in ensuring that the information that they provided are accurate and truthful.

If an online influencer is unsure about the legality of a statement or the potential risks associated with a particular social media activity, he or she is advised to seek legal advice at the soonest possible.

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