Malaysia GE15: Social media emerges as new battleground as parties woo youth votes

“Young voters are very much engaged with TikTok, with Instagram, and with Facebook Live, where video content is increasingly a massive part of their social media engagement,” said Dr Tapsell, a senior lecturer and researcher at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific.

Another reason they have taken to the online space is that they see the upcoming election as more open and transparent than past ones, he told CNA’s Asia Now.


However, the social media space is polarised, added Dr Tapsell, noting that Malay language speakers outside of the main cities predominantly use Facebook while young, urban voters who may not necessarily be Malay language speakers use Instagram and TikTok more.

While some of these videos have garnered hundreds of thousands of views, they may not be pivotal among some segments.

“It depends on the target voters. For parties that solely operate or rely on older rural voters, online presence doesn’t really matter,” said Mr Adib.

Physical rallies, or “ceramahs”, still have their place, politicians said.

They help voters recognise them as they hit the ground running, but still, there is a sweet spot between the virtual and the physical: Livestreaming of rallies.

Amid misinformation and disinformation that spread easily on social media, Dr Tapsell cautioned voters not to accept everything that comes through as fact, even if it looks “real”.

He gave the example of an influencer who looks legitimate but might be engaged by a political party for the campaign.

“It’s important to always reflect on the material that we receive, and ultimately go back to the manifestos ideally that these parties are putting out and listen to the politicians themselves to see whether those ideas align with your ideals,” he said.

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