Dr Ross Tapsell2
2Australian National University, Australian National University, Australia
Who are the main actors increasingly shaping campaigns online in Southeast Asian elections? Through months of empirical research during elections campaigns in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, where debates around ‘fake news’ were central to election discourse, I interviewed actors in the ‘disinformation arena’, such as politicians, political party leaders, big data company directors and employees, digital campaigners, and fact checking organisations whose job it was to counter disinformation. The concern here is not only that ‘fake news’ content is growing in the region, but that progressive, liberal politicians who once opposed professional disinformation practices are now enthusiastically adopting them. They believe employing ‘buzzer teams’, targeting voters through social media algorithmic location-data, and even creating your own black campaign material, is now a central part of a modern-day election campaign in the digital era. These trends are growing and are a crucial factor in the degradation of democracy in the region. I conclude the presentation by examining recent trends in policy responses in Silicon Valley, and in laws and regulations from governments and industry in these three Southeast Asian countries.
Ross Tapsell is a senior lecturer and researcher at the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific, specialising in media and culture in Island Southeast Asia. He is the author of Media Power in Indonesia: Oligarchs, Citizens and the Digital Revolution and co-editor of Digital Indonesia: Connectivity and Divergence. Ross is involved in a number of Southeast-Asia activities at the ANU. He is currently Director of the ANU’s Malaysia Institute, is involved in the ANU’s Indonesia Project and the academic news/analysis website New Mandala. He is on the editorial board of the international scholarly journal Asiascape: Digital Asia (Brill).