KUALA LUMPUR – Jan 23, 2017: A media expert has expressed disagreement with the research finding quoted by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that indicated the current percentage of cybertroopers in support of the government as being very low.
Social media researcher Shahnon Mohamed Salleh of the Centre of Media and Information Warfare Studies, UiTM told The Mole that the 6.6 percent cited by the research as the portion of cybertroopers who support the government could not be accurate.
He said his academic team’s studies suggested that the percentage should instead at least be at 16 to 20 per cent.
“Based on our studies between 2015 and 2016, the number of pro-establishment cybertroopers is higher than what was announced yesterday. It’s not that bad. Generally, it’s hard for us to accept such a low percentage.
“It’s not that we want to contest the findings. But, if possible, we would like to verify the process of the research quoted by our deputy prime minister to ensure that the data is not flawed,” said Shahnon.
Zahid had yesterday lamented that the government is at a disadvantage due to the domination of anti-establishment cybertroopers in shaping public’s perception online.
The deputy prime minister had quoted a study on new media platform, which found that only 6.6 per cent of online operatives are pro-establishment, with a ratio of 1 against 15 existing cybertroopers.
An officer at the deputy prime minister’s office when contacted had confirmed to The Mole that the finding was taken from a study conducted by a researcher at a local university.
According to him, the deputy prime minister had disclosed the finding to urge pro-establishment online operatives to increase their efforts in explaining the government’s policies and agenda to the people, and to combat the pejorative perception facing the government.
Shahnon, nonetheless, insisted that such finding could be misinterpreted by some quarters.
“It could give the impression that the majority of local social media users are deriding the government, which is not true. Our concern is that the public would translate or equate the 93.4 per cent of anti-government cybertroopers to the amount of support towards the opposition.
“We gather that the deputy prime minister did not refer to the whole social media perception, but, there’s a chance of misinterpretation, especially when it involves big research data,” Shahnon added.
Meanwhile, Merdeka Centre programme director Ibrahim Suffian Ibrahim, who also talked to The Mole today described cybertroopers as a group of people paid to post positive comments about certain parties in social media.
“If we look into scholarly journals, most of them had been studying the works of cybertroopers in shaping public’s perception in the Internet. Most of them are paid to create impressions of news or information.”
However, Ibrahim maintained that the anti-establishment sentiment is indeed dominating the local cyberspace.
“The firm (Merdeka Centre) has not conducted any proper research in regards to the matter, but, since the last 10 years, we observed that those with Internet access tend to be having more critical attitude towards the government.
“This may be because they are more exposed to information, particularly from social networking sites like Facebook. Most of the information is unfiltered. It can be opinions, it can be facts, and it can be propaganda. It’s hard to tell how people process this (information) in their minds,” he added.