Merlyna Lim just published a new article titled “Freedom to Hate: Social media, Algorithmic Enclaves, and the Rise of Tribal Nationalism in Indonesia” (Critical Asian Studies journal)


Empirically grounded in the 2017 Jakarta Gubernatorial Election (Pilkada DKI) case, this article discusses the relationship of social media and electoral politics in Indonesia. There is no doubt that sectarianism and racism played significant roles in the election and social media, which were heavily utilized during the campaign, contributed to the increasing polarization among Indonesians. However, it is misleading to frame the contestation among ordinary citizens on social media in an oppositional binary, such as democratic versus undemocratic forces, pluralism versus sectarianism, or rational versus racist voters. Marked by the utilization of volunteers, buzzers, and micro-celebrities, the Pilkada DKI exemplifies the practice of post-truth politics in marketing the brand. While encouraging freedom of expression, social media also emboldens freedom to hate, where individuals exercise their right to voice their opinions while actively silencing others. Unraveling the complexity of the relationship between social media and electoral politics, I suggest that the mutual shaping between users and algorithms results in the formation of “algorithmic enclaves” that, in turn, produce multiple forms of tribal nationalism. Within these multiple online enclaves, social media users claim and legitimize their own versions of nationalism by excluding equality and justice for others.