Cybertrooper activity spikes in Malaysia’s state elections and voter apathy on social media

The social media ugliness during last week’s campaign for Malaysia’s state election may signal an irreversible trend in the country’s politics, and not for the better.

Malaysia’s August 12 state elections were finally contested at the ballot box, but social media remained a key battleground, with few differences compared to previous elections. A key election strategy involves the use of „cybertroopers,” anonymous politically connected actors often paid to enter online debates and influence public opinion.

The Malaysian electorate has changed incredibly Cynical and hateful, often lamenting the presence of cybertroopers as „clouding” public debate. There were at least 5,000 mentions on Twitter alone in the month leading up to last week’s election using the term „Cydro” derogatorily, and the discourse was mostly negative. There were constant complaints about how citrusy it was drowns out discussions, distorts public opinionAnd that makes it difficult Engage in good faith discussions.

Cybertroopers’ Social Media Exploits Twitter And Facebook Our research provided information on how cybertroopers joined both the Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional (PH-BN) ruling coalition and the Perikatan Nasional (PN) opposition. TikTok was also a niche platform, but it lacked the discussion quality of earlier text-centric platforms. In particular, PH-BN cybertroopers have a much stronger presence on Twitter and are engaging in more extreme tactics than before.

As of 2018, the Parties in government Primarily funded most of the Cybertroopers. After the change of regime, Many Cybertroopers may have been decommissioned and became free agents serving most major political parties willing to pay for their services. Since the beginning of 2020, there has been an increase Politically radical (According to) accounts that do not hide their political affiliations, and Muddy digital political discourse in Malaysia. These accounts are involved in spreading party propaganda and attacking the speeches of other parties. Despite these According to It is difficult to find the accounts paid for or real people expressing voter preferences.

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Based on authors’ monitoring using Twitter and Facebook’s Meltwater, both PH-BN and PN appear to have used cybertroopers. The authors estimate this based on the large number of anonymous and highly partisan accounts of election debates online.

Interestingly, PH-BN cybertroopers mainly operate on Twitter versus Facebook, which is largely dominated by Malay-identified cybertroopers (based on the authors’ prior observation). Efforts by PH-BN proxies focus on attacking the PN’s conservative nature and its racist and bigoted rhetoric; The cybertroopers tried to paint a picture that the PN government would marginalize non-Malays, implying that a strong PN victory could bring them back into the federal government.

A key battleground state of Selangor, Malaysia’s richest, the PN hoped to wrest from PH-BN. For that race, PH-BN cybertroopers focused on protecting the PH-BN Selangor state government, insisting the PN would win. Destruction Selangor, comparing Kelantan and Terengganu under PN leadership with underdevelopment. A real fear appeared within the PH-BN that Selangor would fall: their cybertroopers were campaigning heavily on this front.

PH-BN cybertroopers also targeted the youth-oriented Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA). MUDA stood as an independent in the election despite being part of the PH-BN government’s perceived treasonous federal coalition. Most MUDA tweets trigger a flood of complaints and attacks from PH-BN cybertroopers. According tos. The one-sidedness of this exchange was particularly noticeable, as the attacks often overwhelmed MUDA defenders. Cyberbullying in this way is a cybertrooper tactic and one of the many ways they shut down balanced debate—by subjugating opposing views or bullying them into silence.

Cybertroopers are not meant to overturn political viewpoints, but to uphold them; They cast doubt on correct political viewpoints and prematurely stop or distort debate.

The PN’s cybertroopers dominated Facebook and built much of their political campaigning around firebrand figures, particularly Kedah’s caretaker chief minister, Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor. Ahead of the elections, police arrested Sanusi for allegedly insulting the local royal family in a TikTok video. During the campaign, there were several controversies involving Sanusi, most notably the issue of rare earth organ theft with the Home Minister and the Selangor Conservation Chief Minister, who threatened to sue Sanusi. In both cases, PN cybertroopers supported Sanusi and portrayed PH-BN as a rogue government that silenced its critics by curtailing freedom of speech and abusing prosecutions.

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In the final week of the campaign, two major issues caught the attention of cybertroopers: an incident involving Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim at an event with local pre-university students and a televised debate between Economic Affairs Minister Rabisi Ramli and PAS MP Bachok Syahir. Sulaiman on economic plans for Malaysia. Firstly, Anwar was accused of rudely and rudely responding to a student’s question regarding caste system in tertiary education and secondly, Syahir lost the debate because his presentation was poor, flawed and limited. Developed arguments.

PH-BN and PN cybertroopers were quick to engage in both episodes and turn the narrative in their favor. In Anwar’s defence, the PH-BN cybertroopers insisted that the prime minister was right to scold the student, focusing on highlighting that the original video was deliberately edited to embarrass Anwar. PN cybertroopers, on the other hand, accepted that Syahir had done poorly in handling public opinion, but sought to downplay the debate, saying it was a waste of time and that it would not affect the election.

Cybertroopers are not meant to overturn political viewpoints, but to uphold them; They cast doubt on correct political viewpoints and prematurely stop or distort debate. In all examples of online fighting between PH-BN and PN cybertroopers, both sides were adamant that their side was flawless and that the other could do no wrong. The effect is that their growing presence makes the Malaysian electorate even more polarized and fragmented in real life, disenfranchising neutral voters as they are excluded from the online conversation.

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Figure 1: Suspected PH cybertrooper’s tweet, video of a kitchen faucet pouring black water into a cup. It is said to be within the state of Kelantan, which has been under PN rule for decades. The tweet suggests that if the highly developed state of Selangor falls to the PN, it will be a citizen’s fate. The tweet has over 3 million views, nearly 3,000 likes and over 2,000 replies.

Figure 2: A suspected PH cybertrooper’s tweet denouncing Muda. The tweet received 183,000 views, 1125 likes and 621 replies..


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