Workshop on “From Grassroots Activism to Disinformation: Social Media’s Impact on Southeast Asian Society”

About the Seminar

The emergence of the internet in the late 1990s and early 2000s coincided with a democratic flourishing in Southeast Asia. As internet penetration expanded, there was high hope that the internet and social media specifically would act as a ‘liberation technology’ in both democratising and authoritarian states. With a growing decline in internet freedom and increasingly repressive and manipulative use of social media tools by governments, social media has now been regarded as an essential platform for control. Scholars are now most concerned with the role of ‘disinformation’ and ‘fake news’ production, and governments are creating laws which attempt to address this trend.

How did social media become seen by scholars as once a vibrant space for grassroots activism, but now a key tool for disinformation? Was it simply a case of governments and professional disinformation producers taking over the space, or is there more to this story? Did scholars initially overstate its potential or were important reforms made in the early 2010s that are now no longer possible? What role do the platforms like Facebook and Youtube themselves play in this transition to disinformation? Can reformists ‘reclaim’ the digital public sphere in Southeast Asia and if so, how?

This seminar includes scholars who can reflect on the role of social media over the past decade in each country in Southeast Asia, who will analyse key drivers of change in the social media landscape over the past decade, and ultimately provide insights into the key tenets of rapidly shifting information societies in each Southeast Asian country.

Best wishes,

Dr Ross Tapsell and Dr Aim Sinpeng

Conference Conveners

Attendance at this event is free of charge but registration is required by 9 December 2019. As seats are limited, please register early. Admission to the event will be taken as confirmed upon written acceptance from ISEAS.

This workshop is supported by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS).

Download the Draft Programme here.


For registration, please click here. Registration closes on 9 December 2019. For any queries, please feel free to email:


Dec 12 2019


8:30 am - 3:30 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 1 & 2