Google’s Year in Search: 2018 was the year of politics for Malaysians

Google Malaysia released its annual Year in Search list which showed Malaysians were curious about what was happening in their own country this time round. — Reuters pic
Google Malaysia released its annual Year in Search list which showed Malaysians were curious about what was happening in their own country this time round. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 — In 2018, Malaysians — when searching the Internet — turned their attention from foreign celebrities and entertainment gossip to current events in their own country.

Google Malaysia released its annual Year in Search list which showed Malaysians were curious about what was happening in their own country this time round.

Among the trending top searches made by Malaysians in the past 12 months was the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

Google Malaysia Head of Communications and Public Affairs Zeffri Yusof told Malay Mail it was interesting to find ICERD in the top three on the search list, seeing that the issue had only garnered  attention in the final quarter of the year.

“It is very surprising to find it (ICERD) there because it only peaked around October along with the big rally that took place over the weekend.

“The fact that it is an end of the year thing and still made it to the top three means the Malaysia volume on the search is pretty high,” he said.

Following the historic May 9 general elections, Malaysians showed high interest in local current affairs including the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s controversial decision not to ratify ICERD.

Zeffri said in previous years, the top searches for personalities had mainly been on both local and international celebrities, but the trend changed this year.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and Sports and Youth Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman made the top three this year.

“This year, definitely Najib’s arrest and his whereabouts were top on the list as the most searched thing in Malaysia. He was the most searched individual for 2018.

“In terms of people searches, we used to get a lot of celebrity gossip in there but this year for the most part it was current affairs and current events oriented,” he said.

Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor is in the fourth position followed by American actress Meghan Markle who is married to Britain’s Prince Harry.

Zeffri said the World Cup tournament which took place over four weeks in Moscow was the most searched, followed by “SPR” (the Malay acronym for the Election Commission) as eligible voters searched for SPR to check on their status as well as election results.

“The fact that SPR is up there shows how pro-active Malaysians were in checking their verification and voter registration and perhaps even looking at the election results. Looking at the graph, it definitely peaked a week just before the elections,” he said.

Zeffri said it was interesting to see the shift in trends for 2018 as the Malaysian online market grows to become more active and mature.

“The one thing that really stands out for 2018 was the people searches. We have never seen a year that is more political than this year and we have been doing this for seven years since 2011.

“Malaysia is considered a mature online market... we have about 85 per cent of our population online. Smartphone penetration maybe eight out of 10, while household Internet penetration is about six million,” he said, referring to numbers based on the Google consumer barometer.

“We do this research every year and publish it to the public.”

Zeffri said in addition to showcasing what people were curious about in Malaysia, the Google Search tools offer insights into which topics captured the entire world’s attention in 2018.

“When google.com/2018 goes live later today at 4pm, explore the rest of the 2018 Year in Search stories and top trending charts from Malaysia and around the world,” he said.