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ALL was peaceful and quiet on August 25 at the court complex as former prime minister Najib Razak returned to the dock]. The large crowd that had gathered outside of the Palace of Justice last Tuesday was conspicuously missing.

Analysts have called the ex-PM a social media “juggernaut”. Some say that Najib is still popular. How true are these claims?

The “Malu apa, Bossku” campaign was started by cyber troopers to restore the image of Najib following the 1MDB scandal. He understands how to use disinformation to his advantage. He has a track record of spreading falsehoods and is widely known to be the “father” of cyber troopers. 

Leaked files have shown that the Najib-led Umno used Cambridge Analytica to influence voters in the 2013 general election.

Merdeka Papers revealed the attempts of SCL Group (Cambridge Analytica parent company) to influence voting in the 2018 GA. Ahead of the polls, pro-Najib bots flooded Twitter with over 17,000 pieces of content.

He engaged US-based PR firm Karv Communications for media relations support. He paid US$140,000 (RM600,000) for a mere two months of work following damaging revelations in the US court involving former Goldman Sachs banker Roger Ng, over Najib’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal

The Special Affairs Department allegedly allocated more than RM80 million to propaganda work

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Malaysians must be more vigilant information manipulation. The former PM will be continuing his propaganda to get a royal pardon. Malaysians should not fall for it.

Malaysians also need to watch out for racial and religious politics to shift the conversation away from corruption and power abuse. This is especially so in light of the impending general election.

There is an urgent need for more media reforms to prevent the use of cyber troopers, biased media reports and disinformation to muddle public discussions. We need an independent Malaysian media council to regulate problematic media content. We also need an independent body to work with social media companies to formulate transparent regulatory standards on hate speech and disinformation. 

This is to allow an effective crackdown on cyber troopers and hate speech and to prevent the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission from using oppressive laws to ask for social media takedowns.

August 23, 2022 was a momentous day for Malaysians. Najib was sent to jail after losing his appeal to overturn his conviction for graft. It showed that even the political elites are above the law. 

In Mariam Mohktar’s words, Najib has used up his nine lives, and he needs to reap what he sowed. 

The false image of Najib’s popularity has crumbled and the ‘Malu apa, Bossku’ show has finally come to an end. – August 27, 2022.

* Maoling reads The Malaysian Insight.

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