As three Southeast Asian countries – the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia – prepare for elections, academics and political viewers are concerned about public opinion manipulation on social media. The strategic manipulation of public opinion on social media by propagandists remains a serious threat to democracy in Southeast Asia. Cybertroopers have been used strategically in Southeast Asian countries over the years, particularly during election periods.
Political actors have used social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to try to alter public opinion in favour of a political narrative in order to gain greater support in the region. As the most downloaded app in Southeast Asia, TikTok might now be used as a new strategic instrument by propagandists to push for a political narrative during election season.
TikTok has unique qualities that allow propaganda to reach a wider audience, as its content-sharing methodology is different compared to its predecessors, focusing on the content rather than the number of followers.
TikTok has released its most recent community guidelines in order to prevent users from abusing the network. Political propaganda, however, is still prevalent on the platform, particularly in the ‘live’ section. In numerous nations, notably the United States and Russia, TikTok’s ‘live’ feature has been utilised to promote political propaganda.