Observing Malaysian Social Media

Archive for the ‘News Coverage’ Category

BFM Interview: Crowd-counting

BFM recently interviewed us regarding the crowd-counting methodology as part of their ‘The Week in Review’ show. You can listen to the podcast at the link below (opens in a new tab):


Timeline (minute:second)

  • 0:00 Crowd-counting (Ahmed Kamal – Politweet; Gabey Goh – Editor, Digital News Asia)
  • 6:20 Lese Majeste Laws of Thailand
  • 11:57 Graffiti Artists in Myanmar
  • 16:50 The Phenomenon of Cybertroopers (Tessa Houghton – Asst.Professor in Media & Communication, Nottingham University; Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz – Chairman, UMNO New Media Unit; Praba Ganesan – PKR Social Media Strategist)

Written by politweet

January 31, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Coverage: (The Nation) Malaysia’s ‘Silent’ Awakening

Published on Aug 18 2011 (http://www.thenation.com/article/162835/malaysias-silent-awakening)

In early July, while eyes were on the unrest in the Middle East, another democratic movement was gathering momentum in Southeast Asia. Borne out of growing discontent with the ruling government, the people of Malaysia were experiencing their own awakening. Their movement for electoral reform, known as “Bersih” (meaning “clean” in the Malay language), reached critical mass on July 9, when an estimated 47,000 people took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur, demanding action against voter fraud, press freedom and an end to “dirty politics”—slander and incessant claims and counterclaims of supposed sexual misconduct. The rally provoked an unprecedented government crackdown, widely condemned by international human rights agencies, leading to the arrests of more than 1,600 people. Police action has continued, with people frequently detained for as little as wearing a yellow T-shirt—a symbol of support for the outlawed Bersih movement.

The reform movement has been growing since 2005, when a group of politicians and non-governmental organizations, dismayed at the level of fraud and corruption in the Malaysian political system, came together to form the Joint Action Committee for Electoral Reform. When the movement was revived in 2010 as the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, or Bersih 2.0—the now familiar moniker of the reform movement—the organizers made a strategic decision to exclude all political parties, including members of the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat. Bersih 2.0 emerged as nonpartisan, civil society movement to monitor progress towards electoral reform.

Without the involvement of political parties, organizers had to find other means to reach out to mobilize their supporters. “We planned all these roadshows at the nationwide level,” says Maria Chin Abdullah, whose organization EMPOWER serves as the secretariat for the Bersih 2.0 Coalition, which would “entail us going to various states to explain the fifteen demands we had and why we prioritized eight of them.” But the police took a harsh position against protestors. “Before we could even start our roadshow, they already arrested about thirty people,” Chin Abdullah explains.

With direct attempts to reach out to the public thwarted by the police, the movement took to social media. Facebook became the main source of information about the July 9 rally in Kuala Lumpur, and the Twitterverse lit up. A new generation, well-versed in the advantages of online activism and emboldened by the relative anonymity of social media, took courage from protestors across the Middle East and came forward to support the movement. On July 9, the number of Twitter users talking about the Bersih rally reached 19,188, according to the website Politweet. Both online and offline, many thousands of supporters wanted to make their voices heard despite the threat of the government’s harsh preventative laws like the notorious Internal Security Act (ISA), frequently and arbitrarily appliedto suppress dissent.

Many Malaysians feel they are powerless to change their government, yet the ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, which has held power since the formation of the Federation of Malaya in 1957, is clearly uneasy. The Minister of Home Affairs, Hishammuddin Hussein, outlawed Bersih for spreading seditious propaganda and for “affecting the harmony of a multicultural society.” The police refused to grant a permit for the “Bersih 2.0” rally, and government ministers denounced the rally and its organizers.

The government has also attempted to discredit the rally and its organizers by suggesting that the movement’s real goal is to cause disharmony and racial strife. Fear of igniting racial tensions among the country’s three dominant ethnic groups—Malay, Chinese and Indian—frequently colors the political rhetoric of Malaysia. References to the race riots that swept across Malaysia in 1969, leaving an estimated 169 people dead, are often cited as a warning to Malaysians who threaten the status quo, and are used to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Anil Netto, a Malaysian journalist who frequently writes on behalf of the reform group Aliran, explains that the government’s tactics are erratic, and increasingly ineffective. “Initially they were speaking of foreign powers, the next day about communism, another day that Christian groups were getting involved. Many can by now see through these tactics and they are not carrying as much weight as they might have in the past.” And attempts by the government to frame the rally as a threat to racial harmony appear to be unfounded—the movement cuts across racial and religious groups.

”What was good about Bersih 2.0 rally, as everyone now knows, is that it brought out a more multi-racial component,” says Chin Abdullah. “It’s actually a Malaysian rally.” It’s also a movement in which women have played a leading role: Ambiga Sreenevasan, a lawyer and former chairwoman of the Malaysian Bar Council, is the leader of the Bersih movement, and a recipient of the US State Department International Women of Courage award in 2009; and Maria Chin Abdullah, a central figure in the Malaysian women’s rights movement, is head of the Bersih Secretariat. Support also came from an unexpected quarter when Marina Mahathir, daughter of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, attended the rally.

The government likely fears that the movement will result in electoral gains by the opposition in the 2012 election. After Bersih’s first rally, in 2007, the opposition coalition gained control of five of Malaysia’s thirteen states in the 2008 general election, a victory commonly dubbed a “political tsunami.” “The government probably knows that these kind of reforms will strike at the heart of the current electoral process which has returned them to power since independence,” says Netto.

Ironically, the government has only served to fuel public anger and provided the Bersih movement with all the publicity they could need. “To be honest, we didn’t even need the roadshows to raise the publicity of Bersih 2.0, the government did the publicity for us,” says Chin Abdullah. “In spite of all the attacks, the intimidation, the fear, that the government has put in, from race to violence to chaos and all that, the people have actually decided that they want to come forward to join this rally,” Chin Abdullah continues. “No more being the silent majority. We are hoping that from here it will be a stepping stone towards a formation in the future of a more democratic movement in Malaysia.”


Written by politweet

September 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Coverage: (VivaNews) Malaysia Dibangkang Bersih 2.0

Published on Jul 15 (http://us.sorot.vivanews.com/news/read/233615-dibangkang-bersih-2-0)

VIVAnews –  “@mkapor onward march towards freedom and democracy.” Tweet itu dikirim oleh tokoh oposisi Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim kepada kawannya, Mitchell David Kapor, seorang ahli teknologi pendiri Lotus Development Corporation dan investor Startup, yang tinggal di California AS.

Pagi itu, Sabtu 9 Juli 2011, dari Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, Anwar bersiap menuju perhelatan aksi akbar rakyat Malaysia di Stadium Merdeka: unjuk rasa besar-besaran menuntut pemilu 2012 yang jujur dan adil di Malaysia.

Di menit-menit selanjutnya, Anwar pengguna berat jejaring sosial mikroblog Twitter itu, terus melaporkan momen demo bertajuk ‘Bersih 2.0’. Imbuhan ‘2.0’ menunjukkan aksi ini kelanjutan gerakan dan unjuk rasa ‘Bersih’  yang pernah digelar pada 10 November 2007.

Tapi, imbuhan itu juga mengingatkan kita pada ‘Web 2.0’ yang diperkenalkan Tim O’Reilly. Bisa jadi, gerakan yang digagas Gabungan Pilihanraya Bersih dan Adil (gabungan sekitar 60 LSM Malaysia), dan didukung koalisi tiga partai oposisi  itu akan lebih interaktif, kolaboratif, dan partisipatif, ketimbang demonstrasi Bersih 2007 lalu.

Dibanding aksi serupa empat tahun lalu, Bersih 2.0 memang berbeda. Pesertanya dari beragam latar,  baik usia, etnik, dan pandangan politik. Berbagai tokoh oposisi Malaysia hadir. Ada Anwar Ibrahim, istrinya Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, putrinya Nurul Izzah Anwar, Wakil Presiden PKR Azmin Ali, Presiden PAS Abdul Hadi Awang serta dua wakilnya, Pemimpin BERSIH Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, Haris Ibrahim, Maria Chin Abdullah, Lim Kit Siang, dan Samad Said.

Tak ketinggalan, Marina Mahathir, putri mantan Perdana Menteri Mahathir Mohammad. Marina adalah blogger terpandang di Malaysia.

Aksi itu juga dirayakan anak-anak muda. Sebagian besar, masih “polosan”,  belum punya afiliasi politik pasti. “Rakyat marah atas penyalahgunaan kekuasaan oleh pihak Kerajaan. Itu sebabnya massa yang selama ini tidak pernah memprotes, berjalan bersama-sama dalam aksi 9 Juli ini,” ujar Marina Mahathir kepada VIVAnews.

Bagi Malaysia – negara yang jarang digoyang demo itu- unjuk rasa Sabtu lalu adalah terbesar. Pemerintah Malaysia menyebut angka 6000. Tapi beberapa laporan lain menyebut jumlah demonstran berkisar antara 20 ribu – 50 ribu orang.

Tak hanya itu, berbeda dengan unjuk rasa Bersih 2007, pada aksi kali itu para demonstran benar-benar memanfaatkan teknologi. Untuk menghadapi dan menyiasati larangan serta pemblokiran jalan yang dilakukan aparat, mereka mengandalkan ponsel dan jejaring sosial: Facebook dan Twitter.

Disepak, diinjak

Sejak pagi, polisi Malaysia telah bersiap. Laporan pandangan mata dari MalaysiaKini.com, salah satu media alternatif lokal, mengatakan polisi bersiaga di Masjid Negara, Masjid Jamek, Hotel Tune dan Sogo di sekitar Jalan Tunku Abdurrahman. Bahkan, Dataran Merdeka, telah ditutup.

Begitu pula jalan ke Stadium Merdeka dari Jalan Maharajalela. Di jalan itu, kawat berduri melingkar-lingkar seperti gulungan semak yang tajam.

Jalan diblokade. Tak sedikit pengunjuk rasa kebingungan. Untunglah, lewat Twitter mereka bertukar informasi tentang daerah mana ditutup, dan mana yang bisa dilalui. Rupanya ada pendukung unjuk rasa yang kreatif membuat peta kolaboratif di Google Maps, menandai daerah yang telah ditongkrongi aparat.

Google Map Bersih 2.0 Rally, menandai daerah-daerah yang diblokir polisi

Para pendemo itu memang direncanakan beraksi di jalanan Kuala Lumpur. Tapi setelah berkonsultasi dengan Raja Malaysia, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Mizan Zainal Abidin, akhirnya aksi disepakati digelar di Stadium Merdeka, tempat kemerdekaan Malaysia dulu diproklamirkan.

Selain tempat itu, aksi unjuk rasa juga digelar di sejumlah kota dunia. Dari London, Seoul, Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Osaka, Los Angeles, San Francisco sampai ke New York.

Tak jauh berbeda dengan aksi sama pada 2007, aksi Bersih 2.0 meminta pemerintah memakai tinta permanen dalam  pemilu, membuka akses media kepada kandidat oposisi, menyediakan setidaknya 21 hari masa kampanye, menghentikan korupsi, dan politik kotor.

Unjuk rasa itu sendiri sebenarnya berlangsung damai. Para demonstran berjalan tertib sambil meneriakkan yel-yel: “Reformasi… Bersih,” atau Hidup, hidup, hidup, Rakyat.” Tak ada sikap-sikap agresif.  “Suasana di situ malah seperti karnaval. Mereka meramaikan aksi dengan nyanyian dan tarian,” kata Marina Mahathir.

Marina beruntung. Dia menempuh rute dari Jl Hang Jebat ke arah Stadium Merdeka. Aparat keamanan di daerah itu tak brutal. “Mereka memberi peluang kepada rakyat yang memprotes untuk berjalan ke arah Stadium Merdeka.”

Polisi-polisi yang ia jumpai di wilayah itu dinilainya profesional, karena tak sedikitpun kekerasan yang ditunjukkan kepada para demonstran.

Tetapi di tempat lain, para demonstran dihajar babak belur. Aparat mendadak buas. Di sejumlah tempat, tanpa basa-basi, pendemo disemprot water cannon, dan dilempari gas air mata. Massa kocar-kacir, mundur sambil melempar balik gas air mata ke arah polisi. Kemudian, mereka kembali maju secara berkelompok.

Tapi kekerasan itu sepertinya hendak disembunyikan. “Polisi telah berhasil dalam mengevakuasi massa. Tidak terjadi kontak fisik antara mereka,” ujar Perdana Menteri Malaysia Najib Razak. Padahal, rekaman video demonstrasi itu di YouTube justru memamerkan kebrutalan itu. Dari video terungkap tak sedikit demonstran dizalimi aparat. Ada yang mendapat bogem, dibanting, bahkan diinjak dan disepak-sepak.

Alasannya kadang sepele. Misalnya, ada demonstran memakai kaus kuning, mereka ditangkapi. Akibatnya, sekitar 1.600 orang dicokok selama unjuk rasa berlangsung. Nama-nama besar dunia politik pun terjaring. Ada Mahfuz Omar, Salahuddin Ayub, Mohamad Sabu, Fauziah Salleh, Tian Chua, Ambiga Sreenevasan, Abdul Hadi Awang, Azeez Rahim, dan Nur Izzah Anwar.

Anwar Ibrahim pun kena sasaran, kepalanya memar digetok polisi. Kakinya luka. Salah satu pengawal Anwar, Fayad terluka di kepala dan harus dioperasi. Seorang pengunjuk rasa nasibnya lebih malang. Dia Baharuddin Ahmad (59), yang meninggal akibat sesak nafas setelah ditembak gas air mata di depan Kuala Lumpur City Centre.

“Kolap” Twitter

Kabar duka itu menyebar cepat lewat Twitter. Anwar mengucap ‘Innalillahi’. Ada pula yang mengajak mengirimkan Surat Al-Fatihah untuk almarhum Baharuddin. Retweet kabar duka pun berhamburan. Selama unjuk rasa berlangsung, para demonstran bertukar informasi melalui jejaring sosial.

“Saya dan teman-teman memang bergantung kepada social media seperti Twitter dan Facebook mengikuti perkembangan Bersih 2.0,” kata Marina. Tapi, hari itu Marina lebih banyak diam, dan mengamati perkembangan lewat Twitter, agar langkah-langkahnya tak diketahui aparat.

Ahmed Kamal Nava, Founder PolitweetPakar teknologi informasi dan praktisi media sosial independen dari Malaysia, Ahmed Kamal Nava, menjelaskan sebelum unjuk rasa berlangsung, Facebook dan Twitter juga dipakai menyebarkan rencana unjuk rasa, berita penangkapan aktivis, dan alasan kenapa mereka harus ikut demo itu. “Sebab media mainstream seperti surat kabar dan televisi kelihatannya justru fokus menakut-nakuti orang agar tak ikut dalam unjuk rasa.”

Ketika unjuk rasa berlangsung, Facebook dan Twitter berfungsi bak “kolap”, alias “komandan lapangan” di aksi demo. Dia digunakan demonstran memberitahu keberadaan mereka, dan posisi aparat polisi. Atau melaporkan apa yang sedang terjadi, dan membagikan foto kejadian dari berbagai wilayah unjuk rasa.

Tapi, menurut dia, Facebook dan Twitter tak digunakan mengeluarkan aba-aba, atau perintah memobilisasi masa ke tempat tertentu. “Jadi saat itu semuanya tergantung pada massa di lapangan,” kata pria jebolan Computer Science dari Monash University yang sempat menjadi kontributor halaman TI di harian New Straits Times itu.

Mereka, kata Kamal, bergerak secara acak, memberi tahu posisi dan pergerakan mereka lewat Tweet. “Tidak terlihat ada orang khusus bertugas mengorganisir tiap kelompok. Gerakan itu terasa sangat organik, dan tidak sistematik,” ia menambahkan.

Kamal menganalisa semuanya melalui sebuah layanan web yang ia dirikan sejak Oktober 2009 bernama Politweet . “Politweet adalah semacam sebuah lembaga riset, yang mempelajari interaksi sosial antara masyarakat Malaysia dan para politisi mereka melalui Twitter,” katanya. Lewat Politweet, kita bisa melihat Tweet politik populer harian di Malaysia. Politweet juga memantau Tweet terkait pemilu di beberapa negara bagian Malaysia.

Politweet, aplikasi penganalisa Tweet politik di Malaysia

Hebatnya, layanan Politweet ini mampu menjejak Tweet pengguna Twitter berdasarkan lokasi. Caranya, ia memanfaatkan data Twitter dari koordinat GPS di ponsel pengguna, sehingga Politweet mampu menampilkan koordinat itu ke dalam peta, dengan tingkat akurasi 1-10 meter. “Jika Anda menggunakan komputer, Politweet juga masih bisa mengetahui lokasi Anda, dengan tingkat akurasi hingga 500 meter,” kata Kamal.

Dengan begitu, Kamal memantau pergerakan massa dan Tweet yang terjadi selama unjuk rasa berlangsung (lihat Infografik). Pada saat itu, ada 19.190 pengguna Twitter yang melayangkan 85.373 Tweet. 9.351 pengguna, atau sekitar 49 persen adalah pengguna baru bagi sistem pelacak Politweet.

“Artinya, selama ini mereka belum pernah menyebut-nyebut nama para politisi Malaysia sejak tahun lalu,” kata Kamal. Ia menyimpulkan, hampir separuh pengguna Twitter itu adalah massa apolitis.

Kamal percaya, media sosial telah berhasil menyurutkan kecemasan masyarakat Malaysia dalam mengkritisi pemerintahan mereka, sehingga lebih berani berbagi foto, video, artikel berita, bahkan bergabung dalam demonstrasi. Jejaring sosial itu rupanya juga menularkan keberanian. “Semakin banyak koneksi yang mereka miliki, ketakutan untuk mengkritisi atau melakukan aksi semakin terkikis.”

Mengulang Mesir?

Hingga sepekan lewat, enam orang tokoh oposisi masih ditahan. Mereka adalah anggota parlemen dari Sungai Siput Jeyakumar Michael Devaraj, Deputi Ketua Partai Sosialis Malaysia M Saraswathy, Anggota Komite Pusat Choo Chon Kai dan M Sukuaran, Sekretaris Cabang Sungai Siput A Letchumana, serta Ketua Pemuda PSM Sarat Babu.

Tapi, adakah gerakan itu akan terus bergelombang seperti yang tersaksikan di Mesir, atau Tunisia? “Mungkin kultur represi di sini masih kuat. Kita baru akan melihat efek kekuatan media sosial pada pemilu mendatang,” kata Kamal.

Pada Sabtu siang 16 Juli 2011, fanpage Facebook Bersih 2.0 yang beranggotakan 180 ribu orang kembali menyerukan pendukungnya turun ke jalan. Mereka menamakannya Ops Kuningkan Malaysia. Berkumpul di Taman Kuala Lumpur City Centre, memakai segala atribut berwarna kuning, dan mendoakan arwah Baharuddin.

Setidaknya, tak cuma laman Facebook Bersih 2.0  yang terus bergeliat. Kamal terus memonitor perkembangan laman Facebook Fanpage ‘100,000 People Request Najib Tun Razak Resignation’, yang kini pendukungnya melebihi target. Lebih dari 197 ribu warga Malaysia bergabung di sana.

“Saya tidak bisa memastikan ke depan nanti seperti apa,” ujar Kamal. Tapi, Kamal menambahkan, mungkin saja ke depan laman ini akan tumbuh seperti halnya Facebook para demonstran di Mesir, ‘We are All Khaled Said’.  Tapi, kali ini laman itu milik warga Malaysia. (np)

Written by politweet

July 18, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Posted in News Coverage

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Coverage: Al-Jazeera – Malaysian Activists Vent Anger Via Web

In the week following a rally by thousands of Malaysians calling for electoral reforms, anger against the government’s crackdown has been growing louder.

Most of that has been channeled through social networking sites such as Facebook, where footage of the crackdown was posted.

The growing use of the internet for information and opinion is posing an unprecedented challenge to the government.

Al Jazeera’s Azhar Sukri reports from Kuala Lumpur.

Written by politweet

July 18, 2011 at 1:35 am

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Coverage: Maths puts Bersih crowd at 45,000 to 50,000

From FreeMalaysiaToday, July 14 2011 (http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/2011/07/14/bersih-rally-maths-puts-crowd-at-4500-to-50000/)

A research firm using tweets, photos has charted a way to measure just how many people turned up at the ‘Walk for Democracy’ rally.

PETALING JAYA: Crowd estimates for the July 9 Bersih 2.0 rally are almost as contentious as the rally itself. Various figures have been bandied about. Just about everybody has their own estimation – the organisers, police and the media.

Now, one man has come out and said that with his mathematical calculations, the figure is around 45,000 and 50,000. He is Politweet founder, Ahmed Kamal Nava.

Politweet.org, a research organisation that studies Twitter interactions between Malaysian citizens and politicians, had mapped out the number of people who attended the rally using polygons.

But before proceeding to draw the polygons, a timeline of events needed to be established.

Ahmed Kamal told FMT that his primary source to determine the timeline of events were tweets and also pictures posted on Twitter as these pictures, unlike the ones posted on Facebook or other websites, had the integral time stamped on them.

“Using the images from the photo gallery as a reference, I started to draw the polygons covering the area on a map. I used some photos found online, if they were of higher quality, and matched them up with my established timeline,” he said. He established that at about 1pm to 2.30pm the crowd was at its largest.

“The crowd estimation is based on this peak period for different areas within the same time frame. This is to avoid double-counting because crowds were moving, growing and shrinking between 1pm and 4pm,” he said.

“Using the polygons, I was able to use a custom tool to estimate the covered area in square feet. With the factors stated on the website, it was possible to gauge how many people were gathered.”

“Polygons were then generated based on the photos taken within that time frame in different parts of the city,” he said, explaining the methodology used on Politweet’s website.

“The area covered by the polygon was calculated using a separate tool, and this area was then divided by a factor based on how dense the crowd was,” he added.

“If the crowd was standing close together, the factor was one person for every 4 sq ft (one person/4 sq ft). If the crowd was moving about, or a mix of people standing close and far, then it was one person for every 5 sq ft to 6 sq.ft. The factors used are stated for each map.”

He had focused on three areas of the city during the peak period – Puduraya, KLCC and Sungei Wang Plaza. The other “hot spots” such as Pasar Seni were either counted as a subset of these three areas or fell under the “others” category.

“Crowds that were close to Puduraya (such as at the Agro Bank at 12.30pm) are assumed to have joined the Puduraya crowd,” he said.

“Smaller groups were recorded at other areas such as Jalan Raja Laut, Pasar Seni, and Jalan Maharajalela and are all assumed to be within the ‘other’ group of 2,000. This also includes people who stayed behind in Petaling Street when the majority moved to Puduraya at 1pm,” he added.

Written by politweet

July 17, 2011 at 1:38 am

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Coverage: Tweets show Bersih has lots of apolitical support

From FreeMalaysiaToday, July 13 2011 (http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/2011/07/13/tweets-show-bersih-has-lots-of-apolitical-support/)

Preliminary statistics indicate that the movement has fired up those who normally don’t discuss politics.

PETALING JAYA: Some may complain that politicians have hijacked Bersih’s agenda, but Twitter activity indicates that the movement has plenty of support from those Malaysians who normally do not show interest in politics.

According to preliminary statistics, tweets promoting Bersih’s July 9 rally were plentiful even before the issue heated up with the slew of arrests aimed at derailing the programme.

Politweet, a research organization that studies Twitter interactions between ordinary citizens and politicians, says Malaysian users are generally not politically inclined but are fired up by Bersih.

“Bersih has an appeal to even non-political people,” Politweet founder Ahmed Kamal Nava told FMT.

“Users who had never tweeted about a YB before were bothering to tweet about Bersih. On a daily basis, the heaviest promoters of Bersih were people not politically affiliated.

“Even in the run-up to July 9, Pakatan politicians were not heavily promoting Bersih, except Elizabeth Wong. It was only after the arrests started that politicians began to actively promote Bersih on Twitter.”

Politweet has been tracking Malaysian Twitter user behaviour since 2009 and has traced trends on by-elections, the Sarawak state election, the 1Malaysia project and other political developments.

Ahmed also said that the number of RTs (retweets) on Bersih surpassed the average by “a large margin”.

According to him, a tweet may be re-tweeted 50 times on average. However, preliminary statistics reveal that #bersih retweets are dramatically more frequent.

The most retweeted message is to encourage people to add the Bersih badge to their tweeter profile pictures. “Support Bersih:  add a #PicBage to your image” has been retweeted at least 679 times in recent weeks.

Other messages extensively re-tweeted were reactions to police action before and during the rally.

One message that was retweeted 283 times was “RT @xandriaooi: Dear polis, I don’t think the folks rallying are out to cause trouble. If they wanted 2 fight, they won’t set a date & tell u abt it. #bersih.”

Other favourites include “RT @radins: #bersih mass arrests by police at KLSentral. Commuters within profile of Bersih supporters picked up upon alighting from trains. Pls RT” and “RT @NatAsasi:  If one baby from Tung Shin hospital is harmed, #NajibResign IMMEDIATELY! #bersih.”

Ahmed acknowledged that it was difficult to gauge opinions for or against the rally, but added:

“I can say that a minority of tweets were negative.

“But the positive outnumber the negative by a large margin. I suggest reading the #bersihstories to gauge people’s response.” He was referring to an outlet for people to share stories about the Saturday rally.

“But it is correct to say that Malaysians on Twitter were more interested in the Bersih rally than in 1Malaysia, by-elections since 2010, RON97 and the ‘No to Mega Tower’ online protest,” he added.

About 19,000 people had made 85,000 tweets about Bersih by July 9 and Bersih 2.0′s Twitter account garnered 16,000 followers in one month.

Ahmed said Bersih’s account had 386 followers before its first tweet. The number grew steadily and has continued to grow since the rally.

He also noted that Twitter users had started to use “#bersih” as a term referring to groups of multiracial Malaysians, the way they used to say “very 1Malaysia” or “very muhibbah”.

Written by politweet

July 17, 2011 at 1:35 am

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