Two days ago, I had forecast that the Tanjong Piai parliamentary by-election will be the WhatsApp by-election in Malaysia, and this forecast has been vindicated since the Tanjong Piai by-election nomination yesterday.
This morning, the voters of Tanjong Piai by-election was bombarded by an overload of lies, fake news and hate speech, and it is clear that the industrious, creative and highly-funded “influencers” who are responsible for producing the overload of lies, fake news and hate speech on the social media in the past 24 hours had been working overtime going by the volume of their products since nomination.
Among the lies, fake news and hate speech that are being disseminated in the by-election is the allegation that it had been 18 months since Pakatan Harapan became the government but Pakatan Harapan has failed to fulfil any of its promises in its Manifesto.
If such an allegation, which could be easily shot down as untrue could be spread in the Tanjong Piai by-election, it should not be difficult to imagine the monstrous lies, fake news and hate speech which could be disseminated in the by-election.
Although there are six candidates in the Tanjong Piai by-election, the real battle in the by-election is between Pakatan Harapan coalition comprising Bersatu, PKR, Amanah and DAP and the new Muafakat Nasional, comprising PAS and UMNO, with the latter dragging along the two remaining Barisan Nasional parties, MCA and MIC.
During the two-week by-election campaign, Pakatan Harapan leaders will have the herculean task to make Tanjong Piai voters the most media literate in the country, who could identity the lies, fake news and hate speech on the social media, in particular WhatsApp, as the Tanjong Piai voters are now the target of the highly-funded and creative “influencers” on social media, producing and circulating at great speed their latest lies, fake news and hate speech.
There is a second great task for Pakatan Harapan leaders in the two-week Tanjong Piai by-election campaign – to convince the voters why the real battle in the by-election is between Pakatan Harapan and Muafakat Nasional of PAS and UMNO, and their respective vision of what should be the future of Malaysia.
The outcome of the Tanjong Piai by-election on Nov. 16 will depend on the success of the Pakatan Harapan leaders to discharge these two great tasks.