Islamist Buzzers

Message Flooding, Offline Outreach, and Astroturfing

  • Ario Seto Collaborative Research Center 1095 “Discourses of Weakness and Resource Regimes”, Goethe University Frankfurt
Keywords: Astroturfing, Hate Speech, Islam, Right-wing Politics, Social Media Buzzer

Abstract

Based on ethnographic research on Islamist buzzers – social media political operators tasked with making particular online conversation subjects trend – in Indonesia, this article details the process of how the proliferation of insensitive message in both the online and offline realms plays a role in mobilizing those sympathetic to religious fundamentalism. As this research shows, the interviewed buzzers were one of the driving forces behind the massive success of the fundamentalist Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, FPI) as they mobilized people to participate in the organization’s political rallies between 2016 and 2017. Driven by altruistic volunteerism and sense of community, these actors go beyond their duty as click-farmers. They maintain regular contact with sympathizers and convincing them to revive broken weblinks, hang banners on streets as part of astroturfing campaigns and gather masses to attend offline events. Detailing the activity and spatiality of buzzers in crafting new online and offline spaces as part of their innovative bottom-up propaganda management, this research concludes that right-wing political mobilization and radicalization are not simply the product of ideology but are catalyzed by technically and socially tedious, mediated messaging campaigns.

Author Biography

Ario Seto, Collaborative Research Center 1095 “Discourses of Weakness and Resource Regimes”, Goethe University Frankfurt

Ario Seto is a postdoctoral researcher and media anthropologist at the Collaborative Research Center “Discourses of Weakness and Resource Regimes,” Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany. His recent book, Netizenship: Activism and Online Community Transformation in Indonesia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), details the disciplining practices and ethics in shaping militant netizens.

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Published
2019-12-26
How to Cite
Seto, A. (2019) “Islamist Buzzers”, Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 12(2), pp. 187-208. doi: 10.14764/10.ASEAS-0021.
Section
Current Research on Southeast Asia