How Social Media Cyberbullying Affects a City’s Political Election

The recent impact of utilizing social media as a political smear campaign agent are alarming.

Earlier this week, I heard a prodigious news about a man’s imprisonment. He’s not a mediocre commoner; in fact, he is one of Indonesia’s most prominent politician. It was Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Indonesia’s biggest and most economically-developed city, Jakarta. He was accused of committing blasphemy towards the Muslims–which accounts 87% of Indonesian population–in a video of his campaign speech that went viral on Facebook last September.

It may seem like an ordinary case of criminal, but what astonishes me is the fact that the speech video was fabricated. The uploader of the video was allegedly edited a part of the video, in which cause the governor to appear as he had committed blasphemy. Moreover, several prominent Indonesian medias have classified this video as the trigger to an even more intensified cyber bullying, causing fierce smear campaigns through social media towards the governor.

Smeary Campaign over social media is indeed not a bizarre phenomenon. Looking back towards the United States Presidential election, both Twitter and Facebook as one of the most prominent social media sites in the United States have contributed a major effect towards both of the candidates. Back then, I still vividly remember seeing a lot of fake news that cornered Hillary Clinton went through my Facebook feed and how a lot of people believed those black campaigns, which strengthened Donald Trump’s position. A lot of less phenomenal elections in various countries have also experienced smeary social media campaigns.

Nevertheless, does smeary–or black–campaigns considered as cyberbullying? Yes, it is. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. As any type of virtual harassment is considered as cyberbullying, smeary campaign does fit perfectly with this consideration. Furthermore, does smear campaigns in a form of cyberbullying can alter a political election in an adverse way? Truly. An article from The Huffington Post stated that “An online smear campaign can literally destroy a person’s career, business, ability to find employment, relationships — not to mention their emotional health.”

And indeed it destroys someone’s career

Though Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama itself is a person packed with controversy, a lot of Indonesians considered him as a squeaky-clean politician amidst of Indonesian’s political field, particularly known to its colossal corruption, nepotism and collusion scandals. A year ago, his electability as a gubernatorial candidate were tremendously high that people thought he’ll be invincible from his rivals. However, there are one qualities that affect Jakarta’s gubernatorial election staggeringly: religious issues. As smeary campaigns that accuses Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on commiting the alleged blasphemy towards a certain religion went vigorously viral in social medias, especially with the presence of the fabricated video evidence, it massively affects a large sum of Jakarta’s–even Indonesians, notably the conservative and religious Muslims.

The act of black campaign towards Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama turns out to be a huge success in dropping his electability percentage. Quoting from The Jakarta Post, an English language Indonesian news source, a member of a social media volunteer group called ‘Jasmev’, Hariadhi, are concerned with this situation. “Negative campaigns against the incumbent candidate had intensified. I can find a smear campaign every three hours on social media and the issues are mostly similar, but of course we don’t have to respond to every single on of them,” Hariadhi said.

“Negative campaigns against the incumbent candidate had intensified. I can find a smear campaign every three hours on social media and the issues are mostly similar, but of course we don’t have to respond to every single on of them,”

This phenomenon does bring an utter concern on the way cyberbullying could’ve resulted. Regardless of the scale, either on a personal level, societal level or worldwide level, cyberbullying in any way do cause an intolerable destruction.

We may summon the social media platform or the agitator as the cyberbullying provocateur. However, enacting counter-negative acts, even as simple as raising our own empathy and pleading conscientiously online could make a difference in the cyber world, as well as contributing to a better, peaceful cyber world. Consider this as your call for action, and let the rest follow your lead.

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