Twitter’s impact on Malaysia’s landscape

Readers browse Malay Mail Online’s Twitter page. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli
Readers browse Malay Mail Online’s Twitter page. — Picture by Zuraneeza Zulkifli

PETALING JAYA, March 21 — Twitter turns 10 today, proving its longevity as a powerful communication tool. 

The social networking utility has become a must-have for journalists, activists, celebrities and social media influencers. 

Social data analysis service Thoth Zocial reveals there are more than 3.5 million Twitter users in Malaysia as of February 2014. 

That is a big number, but only 21.8 per cent are active users. 

However, this should not come as a surprise as the company has struggled over the years with its chief executive quitting and more than 300 staff members being cut last year. 

This does not mean the social media is dying as it still has a huge impact globally and locally. 

One example is a study ran by Universiti Malaya senior lecturer Surinderpal Kaur in 2013 regarding the impact of Twitter before and after the 13th general election (GE). 

One of the reasons why Barisan Nasional lost the cyberwar against the Opposition is their tweets did not generate chain reactions. 

Compared to the 2008 GE, the scene was dominated by bloggers. This huge shift plays a big part as more than 900,000 tweets were about the 2013 election.

Last year, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin got the most benefit from Twitter since his removal from the Cabinet after speaking up about 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). From barely a blip on the public radar, he became a Twitter sensation. 

It shows how much the blue bird can affect public perception on people. 

As netizens are free to voice their thoughts in the 140-character-or-less platform, there was some form of control started by digitally-savvy police. 

In January, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar intensified efforts to monitor social media. 

Just last month, the police cyber unit Twitter account was used to issue warnings to critics of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. 

Looking at Twitter’s decade-long impact as a whole, it has changed information consumption in Malaysia. It has revolutionised the way netizens communicate. 

This social media is still relevant when it comes to major cultural events, major news events and subjects people discuss around the world. 

Just think about it, when you want to search for something, you “Google it” and when you want to connect with friends, you “Facebook them”. 

When it comes to sharing thoughts with the world, you “tweet it”.

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