Aim Sinpeng and Ross Tapsell

Nov 19, 2020

Social Media, Grassroots Activism and Disinformation in Southeast Asia

A Discussion with Dr Aim Sinpeng and Dr Ross Tapsell

SSEAC Stories 2020

purchase at bookshop.org

Social media has become a crucial avenue for political discourse in Southeast Asia, given its potential as a “liberation technology” in both democratising and authoritarian states. Yet the growing decline in internet freedom and increasingly repressive and manipulative use of social media tools by governments means that social media is now an essential platform for control. “Disinformation” and “fake news” production is growing rapidly, and national governments are creating laws which attempt to address this trend, but often only exacerbate the situation of state control.

In this episode, Dr Aim Sinpeng and Dr Ross Tapsell discuss their new book, From Grassroots Activism to Disinformation: Social Media in Southeast Asia (ISEAS Publishing, 2020), with Dr Thushara Dibley, and explore some of the more recent controversies surrounding social media use in Southeast Asia.


Aim Sinpeng is a Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the University of Sydney. Her research interests centre on the relationships between digital media, political participation and political regimes in Southeast Asia. Aim is particularly interested in the role of social media in shaping state-society relations and inducing political and social change. Aim received Facebook research grants to study hate speech in the Asia Pacific (with Fiona Martin) and the effectiveness of countering misinformation strategies (with Denis Stukal). Her other scholarly works examine popular movements against democracy in democratising states. She is co-editor of From Grassroots Activism to Disinformation: Social Media in Southeast Asia (ISEAS Publishing, 2020). She is the author of a forthcoming book, Opposing Democracy in the Digital Age: the Yellow Shirts in Thailand (University of Michigan Press). You can follow Aim on Twitter: @aimsinpeng.


Ross Tapsell is a Senior Lecturer and researcher at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, specialising in Southeast Asian media. He is the author of Media Power in Indonesia: Oligarchs, Citizens and the Digital Revolution (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017) and co-editor of Digital Indonesia: Connectivity and Divergence (ISEAS Publishing, 2017) and From Grassroots Activism to Disinformation: Social Media in Southeast Asia (ISEAS Publishing, 2020). He has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, VICE and other publications in the Southeast Asian region. Ross is currently Director of the ANU's Malaysia Institute, and is involved in the ANU's Indonesia Project and the academic blog New Mandala. You can follow Ross on Twitter: @RossTapsell.

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website here.

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