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Digital learning and extending electoral authoritarianism in Singapore

Author: Netina Tan

Affiliation: McMaster University, Canada

Organization/Publisher: Democratization

Date/Place: June 2, 2020/ UK

Type of Literature: Journal Article

Number of Pages: 20


Keywords: Digital authoritarianism, digital learning, social media, Facebook, political communication, party politics, Singapore



Social media is becoming more influential, as the number of users is increasing daily. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have more impact on the social, political, and economic life of masses than traditional media. According to different analytics Facebook has approximately 2.45 Billion users and Twitter has 321 million active users. This article explains the linkage of social media and authoritarian regimes by analyzing the case study of Singapore under People’s Action Party (PAP). The free information and opinion sharing platform is highly risky when it comes to surveillance by state. Regimes utilize digital avenues to transform the public perception in its favor and repress dissent. PAP applied social media strategies to increase party membership and propagation of party agenda, thereby outnumbering the opposition parties. This study explains the legal framework in Singapore that enabled PAP to build its digital authoritarianism. The article’s four sections detail social media effects on electoral authoritarian regimes, significant case studies, digital strategies of different political parties, and the implication of PAP’s social media strategy on electoral competitiveness. Singapore is not the only case of digital manipulation and authoritarianism for political gains; in 2016, Cambridge Analytica data-mined the personal information of millions of Facebook users and shared with third parties for political advertisement without the knowledge or consent of the users. Similarly, Gulf regimes are using social media strategies to keep a firm grip on opposition. 

By: Muhammad Taimoor Bin Tanveer, CIGA Research Associate



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