Trolls at the polls
What cyberharassment, online political activism, and baiting algorithms can show us about the rise and fall of Pakatan Harapan (May 2018-February 2020)
Keywords:internet trolling, Malaysia, digital platforms, algorithms, justice, gender, social media, Facebook, Twitter, microcelebrity, Pakatan Harapan
This article considers how politically motivated Internet trolling, within the context of Malaysia from May 2018 until February 2020, made use of affordances of algorithms and platforms to achieve their goals, from targeted attacks on individuals to collective interventions for advancing social and informational justice. Centering on the importance of digital platforms and algorithms in framing and shaping online communication, this article explores the decisions, actions, and policies which, framed and shaped by these algorithms, produced a particular space in Malaysian political discourse that enables Internet-based political trolls. Attention is given to the infrastructure of trolling, as well as the platforms supporting and cultivating the practice of trolling that are usually international in their ownership, development, and user base. By focusing on the trollish practices of a “minor” non-Western community in Asia, we attempt to theorize the effects of digital infrastructure at the periphery of multinational platforms based on participant-observation research and media-textual analysis.
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