COMET-lecture: Weeding the grass: social media astroturfing in Malaysia

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Pinni B, lecture hall 4113


Tampere Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Communication COMET

Niki Cheong (University of Nottingham, UK) gives a lecture.

This lecture will discuss the political communication practices engaged by state and political actors known as astroturfing – understood to be organised movements on social media disguised as grassroots sentiment. While studies in this area have been ongoing for many years covering various parts of the world, the current global political climate surrounding the EU referendum and the election of President Donald Trump offers a different perspective to discuss this practice within the context of post-truth politics, alternative facts and fake news.

There exist numerous literature with regards to the practice of astroturfing conducted by political parties and governments– from authoritarian regimes to pseudo-democratic countries to liberal democracies. Across the globe, astroturfing is used for various reasons: suppressing dissent, propaganda purposes, reverse censorship and manipulation and spin.

This lecture will look at the political astroturfing practices in Malaysia as a case study to illustrate the murky line between information and disinformation being disseminated from politicians, political parties and Governments. In Malaysia, this practice is generally known as “cybertrooping”.

At a time when social media is so pervasive, and considering its significant role in political communication, the pressure is on journalists and the public themselves to discern what is true and what is not. This paper will discuss the empirical data from the Malaysian context as evidence of yet another form of “post-truth” manipulation, one that has been practiced long before Brexit and Trump.

Niki Cheong is a PhD researcher in Critical Theory and Cultural Studies at The University of Nottingham, UK. He is originally from Malaysia where he spent twelve years working as a journalist, and recently published a collection of his decade-long column in the country’s largest English daily The Star. Cheong’s research interests lie at the intersection of media, politics and digital culture.

Additional information

Asko Lehmuskallio
asko.lehmuskallio at
puh. 050 318 7013