Fake News and Elections in Two Southeast Asian Nations: A Comparative Study of Malaysia General Election 2018 and Indonesia Presidential Election 2019

Source: towardsdatascience.com

Nuurrianti Jalli, Ika Idris


Increasing Internet penetration across the globe and the wide distribution of false information on Internet platforms have resulted in the pressing need to study the effects of fake content on society. The advancement of technologies also had contributed to a more sophisticated false content that could be produced. Widespread use of forged images and realistic fake videos were made possible through computer-generated techniques. Several studies had been done by other scholars to study the influence of fake news during elections (see Anis & Gentzkow, 2016; Persily, 2017) however limited has been done in the Southeast Asian perspective. This research aims to look at the distribution of fake news during two elections in Southeast Asia, focusing on Malaysia 14th General Election in 2018 and Indonesia Presidential Election 2019; and how false information influenced political discourse. We employed two different methods for this study which were social network analysis (SNA) and in-depth interviews. We analyzed six different hashtags popular during these two elections and how these hashtags were used as conduits to share false information. For Malaysia, three specific hashtags were studied – #MalaysiaBaru, #PakatanHarapan, #IniKalilah, while in Indonesia #DebatPintarJokowi #PrabowoMenangDebat and #PropagandaRusia. Our findings revealed that 1) fake news not only shared by ordinary users but also as a strategic communication by cyber armies employed by political parties, 2) fake news to a certain degree had influenced political discussion on social media during election period, 3) people are more likely to find stories that favored their political parties, and 4) victims of false content are believed to have low media literacy.

This piece is part of the Proceedings of the International Conference on Democratisation in Southeast Asia (ICDeSA 2019), November 2019

ISBN 978-94-6252-835-2