A Critical History of Internet Activism and Social Protest in Malaysia, 1998-2011

in Asiascape: Digital Asia
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Abstract

This article asks two related questions. First, to what extent has internet activism shaped social protest in Malaysia from the late 1990s to the present? Second, what can the history of internet activism and social protest in Malaysia tell us, if anything, about the 2011 global wave of protests? To address these questions I distinguish three key moments in Malaysia’s eventful history of internet activism and social protest, namely the 1998-1999 reformasi movement, the electoral ‘tsunami’ of 2008 (in which the ruling coalition lost its two-thirds majority), and the Bersih 2.0 rallies of 2011. I argue that Bersih 2.0 is best explained as both the latest episode in a series of uniquely Malaysian techno-political events and as a local variant of the global wave of protests of 2011 – a wave in which hackers, online journalists, and technology lawyers, as well as ordinary citizens using digital media, played an important part. The article ends with a summary and with suggestions for further research.

A Critical History of Internet Activism and Social Protest in Malaysia, 1998-2011

in Asiascape: Digital Asia

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