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TikTok the new GE15 battleground for MY politicians to engage younger gen

TikTok the new GE15 battleground for MY politicians to engage younger gen

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Malaysian politicians are expanding their engagement platforms ahead of the General Election and using TikTok to reach out to the younger crowd. This push comes as the minimum voting age has been lowered to 18. Perikatan Nasional's chairman and former PM Muhyiddin Yassin, for example, has jumped on the "Swipe" trend on TikTok featuring a hip-hop track by Singaporean artist Alyph.

In the video, Muhyiddin is seen swiping away the logos of rivals Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan whenever Alyph sings the word "swipe". His video had 323.1k likes and 16.8k comments at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, other politicians including finance minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz, health minister Khairy Jamaluddin, and MP Syed Saddiq are also using TikTok to showcase their election campaigning while also reminding Malaysians to vote. Tengku Zafrul, Khairy, and Syed are also frequent users of TikTok, using the platform to break down current affairs and policies and share what life looks like as a minister behind the scenes.

TikTok is currently not allowing ads on its platform for the upcoming General Election in Malaysia and head of public policy Kristoffer Rada told A+M that political advertising and paid advertisements have long been prohibited on the platform globally. "TikTok is first and foremost an entertainment platform," Rada said. At the same time, the company also recently updated its global policy on political content to government, politicians, and political party accounts (GPPPA) that prohibit GPPPA from monetisation opportunities on TikTok.

(Read also: SG and MY politicians jump on TikTok: How can their content entice Gen Z?)

Accounts belonging to politicians and political parties will automatically have their access to advertising features turned off - helping TikTok enforce its existing policy consistently. As a result, all GPPPA (including those in Malaysia) will not be able to give or receive money through TikTok's monetisation features.

"The way users consume information on key events has evolved to more digital avenues. We recognise that providing credible on-platform sources of information is paramount. This is why we are working on launching an elections guide that will lead users to accurate and important election-related information that they need to be aware of," Rada said.

Users can access the elections guide via the search banner when users search for elections-related terms such as "Belia Sedia Undi," "GE15," "PRU15", "Malaysia Elections" or "Pilihan Raya", post content, or start a live room using elections-related hashtags.

To safeguard against misinformation, TikTok partners with AFP to fact-check news that is being shared on the platform in Asia Pacific. This partnership will also continue during the election period. According to the spokesperson, a dedicated moderation team also checks for content that is accurate, harmful, or violates TikTok's Community Guidelines and removes it from the platform. Users themselves can report such content through the "share" button onscreen and selecting the "report" option in the following menu.

On the ground, TikTok is carrying out youth outreach by working with local universities and academics to inform, educate and empower the youth to identify misinformation, engage with credible news sources, and also exercise their rights to vote. With the voting age lowered, TikTok expects to see a larger pool of young, first-time voters this time around. "We want to empower them with the right information, so they are equipped to make their own decisions while voting," Rada explained.

(Read also: Malaysia GE15 social chatter: Which political parties and brands are trending?)

TikTok is one of the platforms that Gen Z (43%) turn to for political or election matters, a previous study by Milieu Insight found. It was also cited as a source for similar matters by 38% of those aged 25 to 34. Meanwhile, a more recent national poll by Milieu Insight which surveyed 1,000 Malaysians found that those aged 18 to 39 are more likely to have less understanding of the current political situation in Malaysia compared to those 40 years old and above. Meanwhile, 25 to 44-year-olds and Chinese individuals were found by Milieu Insight to be more optimistic about Malaysia's future in the next five years compared to those who are 55 years old and above and of Malay ethnicity.

At the same time, 41% generally feel worn out by the amount of Malaysian politics-related news in the past three months citing reasons of there being too much drama (69%) and repeat issues surfacing (66%). Overall emotions felt about the current Malaysia political situation are sadness/disappointment (27%) alongside worry (21%). According to Milieu Insight, Chinese individuals are more likely to feel tired while Non-Malay Bumiputeras feel disgust.

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