DON’T be surprised if you see Dr Mahathir Mohamad popping up in your WhatsApp or other social media apps, as campaigning is set to hit new heights in the 14th general election.
Several two-second .gif clips of the former prime minister began emerging on social media yesterday.
A source from Dr Mahathir’s party, Bersatu, said the clips, featuring the former prime minister with 10 different facial expressions, are meant to endear the Pakatan Harapan chairman with voters.
“Internet users react very quickly to news and comments in real time. (If) they need to say something as quickly and emphatically as possible, they say it with a .gif file.
“We’ve realised that (using) .gif visuals are a fixture of modern media. Within seconds, these compressed visuals can leave a lasting impression,” said the Bersatu leader.
The graphic clips can cut across language and age, he added.
Social media has been used as a campaign platform in recent elections by both the ruling Barisan Nasional, which has admitted having its own “cybertroopers”, as well as the opposition.
For Malaysians, WhatsApp has also become a popular platform for sharing messages and memes, including on politics.
According to the Digital News Report 2017, 51% of internet users in Malaysiaused WhatsApp to communicate and disseminate information. The report was done by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.
WhatsApp is the second most popular social media application in Malaysia behind Facebook (58%), YouTube (26%), WeChat (13%) and Instagram (13%).
Another research by TNS Global said Malaysia has the highest number of WhatsApp users at 77%, followed by Facebook at 41%.
Communication and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak has said WhatsApp is one of the most popular apps for political campaigns.
“In politics, WhatsApp is a useful and effective tool. One WhatsApp group can carry up to 200 members.
“If one person had 10 WhatsApp groups, he can share information with 2,000 people in the click of a button,” said Salleh.