With Malaysian election fever on the rise, social media giant Twitter has seen a recent rise in automated accounts called bots flooding its platform with pro-government and anti-opposition messages. This was based on a review by Reuters and a US digital media research institute, the news wire reported.
The report added that it was unable to establish where the tweets originated from, or the identity of the firm or individual behind the bots.
Addressing the danger of bots on Twitter, communications minister Salleh Said Keruak has said that as a regulator, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) will work closely with providers such as Twitter and Facebook upon complaints.
In a separate tweet, the minister said: “Bots is a technology that can be used anonymously by anybody. Service providers like Twitter and Facebook don't allow such use in their terms of service."
A+M has reached out to Twitter and MCMC for comment.
The problem of bots pertaining to the Malaysian elections was also flagged by Twitter users, which sparked a debate on the origins of the bots as well as a call to report the bots as spam.
Everyone, I need your help.
Check #PulangMengundi hashtag and REPORT FOR SPAM all the identity hashtag spam accounts.
We need to get these cheapass, lame bots BANNED FROM TWITTER.
Your help is appreciated. RETWEET!
— klubbkidd™ (@klubbkiddkl) April 16, 2018
Good job BN cybertroopers. You releasing your bots to spam #PulangMengundi #CarpoolGE14 and hijacking the hashtags for your political nonsense will not be accepted kindly by those really looking for assistance to go back and vote. pic.twitter.com/BFcRNNAydA
— Your Tuanbro Dushbek Evendoor Bae (@bongkersz) April 16, 2018
The Reuters report added that Twitter bots are currently not illegal in Malaysia and seem to be having minimal impact on the election campaign. Meanwhile, Ahmad Maslan, information technology bureau chairman of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s United Malays National Organisation, also said he did not know who was behind the bot activity and that it was not his team in a statement to the newswire.
In January, Twitter admitted that around 50,258 Russia-linked accounts had used the platform to post automated material about the 2016, a number far great than disclosed previously. This cast bots into the spotlight and raised concerns over interference in political elections.
In light of the recent Cambridge Analytica saga, local internet regulator MCMC said it would look into claims that Cambridge Analytica was involved in a past election campaign in 2013. This was confirmed by COO Datuk Mazlan Ismail who added the claim may have been self promotion, said a Malay Mail Online report. The matter also sparked debate amongst various political parties in Malaysia, a Straits Times report read.