Digital Disruption: How Cyber Troops Manipulate Political Opinion in Southeast Asia


About the Webinar

The rise of cyber troops in online public spheres is posing new challenges to national cybersecurity and civil society in Southeast Asia. Whether in the form of internet trolls that deliberately disrupt online debates through provocation and harassment, popular influencers that are paid to propagate partisan messages on social media, automated bots that are utilised for concerted cyberattacks, or organised cyber mercenaries that are used by governments or political parties to manipulate public opinion and discredit opponents – the online manipulation of public political debates is increasingly common and becoming more sophisticated. This trend goes hand in hand with the shrinking of civic space in Southeast Asia, both online and offline, which leaves civil society and opposition groups more vulnerable to marginalisation and suppression, and thereby less capable of effectively countering online propaganda and attacks. Well-targeted countermeasures are indeed difficult to establish due to the elusiveness of cyber troops, and the largely unknown identity of the forces behind them.

In this webinar, Dr Yatun Sastramidjaja will discuss what we know so far about the prevalence and nature of cyber troops in Southeast Asia, and assess their impact in different national contexts. Next, Dr Wijayanto will discuss the case of cyber mercenaries, public opinion manipulation and shrinking civic space in Indonesia, showing how cyber troops were used in response to civil protest on two contentious laws: the revised Law on the Corruption Eradication Commission in 2019 and the Omnibus Law in 2020. The webinar will also discuss the balance to be struck between cybersecurity on the one hand, and the pursuit of democracy on the other.

About the Speakers

Dr Yatun Sastramidjaja is an Assistant Professor in Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, and currently a Visiting Fellow with the Media, Technology and Society programme at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute. Her research focuses on the role of digital technologies in youth activism and its impact on democracy processes and changing notions of democratic citizenship in Southeast Asia.

Dr Wijayanto is the Director of the Centre for Media and Democracy at LP3ES (Institute for Research, Education and Information on Economy and Social Affairs) in Jakarta, and a Lecturer in the Department of Politics and Government, Diponegoro University. His research focuses on issues related to journalism, digital media, corruption, social movements, elections and democracy in Indonesia.


This webinar will be delivered online entirely. You can join the webinar at the specified date and time using devices (computer, phone, or tablet) with internet connection.

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For the best experience, please mute your microphone. If you have questions for the speakers, please key in your questions via the Q&A, stating your name and affiliation. The moderator will field them to the speakers during the Q&A session.


Dec 10 2020


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm