WHEN pro-Umno blogger and well-known cyber trooper “Budak Sri Kinta” first started actively posting his views and opinions online, it was fuelled by a desire to challenge the heavy dominance of the opposition on social media following the 2008 general election.
Nine years on, what began as a voluntary effort has become an almost full-time endeavour to help Umno win the political battle in the world of social media, and ensure the ruling Barisan Nasional does not experience a repeat of its worst electoral performance in the 2008 polls.
“Budak sri kinta” said it was the 12th general election, that saw BN cede four states to the opposition as well as lose its two-thirds majority in Parliament, that sparked off the rise of Umno cyber troopers.
“Back then, many people stepped forward, including me. The sentiment at that time was that we didn’t want DAP to take over Malaysia,” said the veteran blogger.
“Anyone can become a cyber trooper – you just have to know how to play smart on social media,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
He said there were thousands of Umno supporters who are currently “keyboard warriors”, using social media platforms to counter the opposition’s criticisms of the government and to also spread pro-government messages.
“Most of us are volunteers, but there are some who do this full-time. They’re from the IT bureau.
Umno’s IT Bureau is chaired by Ahmad Maslan, and has a team of around nine people to monitor online activity in all states.
On November 4, the bureau organised a convention for Umno cyber troopers in Kuala Lumpur, where an estimated 3,500 bloggers turned up.
Paid to post?
The blogger said not all cyber troopers were paid for their work, but admitted that even if they were not paid in cash, they would be remunerated in kind.
“Like myself, after such a long time in the media world, there are party leaders who will give me some allowances to help cover my telephone bills, Internet charges and so on,” he said.
He did not deny claims that cyber troopers were paid anything from RM500 to RM3000 monthly by certain groups via the Prime Minister’s Office, and that many were also given telephone gadgets and laptops.
“But most of us are just volunteers fighting for the party,” he said.
Faisal Rohban, another pro-Umno blogger, admits that cyber troopers often receive gifts at events, but claims to have never received any payment for his efforts.
“We don’t get any money, but usually we receive things like power banks. Or when there are festivals with social media, then bloggers will get gifts,” he said.
“I have never had any business venture with the government… not even RM1 worth.”
He said his motivation did not come from the promise of payment or gifts, but rather as a sense of responsibility towards Umno.
“When we say we will benefit from the government, it doesn’t mean in the form of money.
“The reward is in the form of a good economic environment. When the economy is good and growing, the people will benefit.”
Faisal said the newer generation of keyboard warriors preferred to be known as social media activists, and not cyber troopers.
The business-owner, who had been contributing articles to Umno-owned paper Utusan Malaysia before he began blogging, also took up the call to disseminate pro-government messages online after the 2008 polls.
He said today’s cyber troopers have evolved, with an increasing number choosing to write under their own names and not use pseudonyms.
“Now, more people are revealing their names, and not hiding. This means every article we write needs to be backed up by the facts.
“For example, before I write about an issue, I will call the party involved to get confirmation so that whatever I write has a factual source.
“This is also advised by our Umno leaders.”
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT