Social media taketh and now social media taketh away. Sorta.
While social media sites like Twitter and Facebook have become integral for protesters to organize events, government officials in Malaysia have taken a page out of this playbook and used it against the protesters. Wall Street Journal describes the effort:
The Royal Malaysia Police are now using their own official Facebook and Twitter pages – typically filled with traffic warnings and information on crime rates – to hopefully prevent a planned rally in support of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Jan. 9, when the verdict on his two-year sodomy trial is expected.
Sharing photos and videos of past riots – including the raucous London demonstrations that shook Britain last August – the Malaysian police warned that peaceful assemblies can easily devolve into chaos, and “should be a lesson” to Malaysians.
“Should be a lesson”? Nice words of intimidation and fear-mongering. Still, the Facebook page for the Malaysian police don’t seem to be short on popularity as it has nearly 100,000 likes while their Twitter account, which was only launched last September, has nearly 10,000 followers. Of course, likes and followers does not necessarily imply support for the government’s tactics. It could just as well be an online episode of cat-and-mouse between protesters and the government: government watches the protesters, and the protesters watch the government. While both sides try to stay one step ahead of the other, the meantime result is the perception of greater online popularity. But is anybody even really surprised that the government is using social media to monitor the activity of dissident groups? Malaysia’s police aren’t alone in this act nor are they the first.