"Are We Becoming the Kind of Nation That Just Blocks Out All Criticism?": Negotiating the Gap Between Digital Citizenship Education and Young People's Everyday Digital Citizenship Practices in Malaysia

University of Southern California
Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Communication, 2021, 15, pp. 4690-4708
Issue Date:
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This study draws on data examining Malaysian official discourses of digital citizenship, as reflected in educational programs targeting young people, and the everyday digital citizenship practices of Malaysian-Chinese youth in Kuala Lumpur. The study examines two programs and their alignment with laws censoring contentious digital speech and content. This is contextualized and analyzed via semi-structured interviews with stakeholders from government and industry, and ethnographic interviews with N = 29 Malaysian-Chinese young people (aged 18–24). The analysis provides insight into the content of digital citizenship programs, which seek to responsibilize young people to police their own online speech, while encouraging them to engage in lateral surveillance of their peers. I argue that digital citizenship is part of a surveillance assemblage that had chilling effects on youth political expression in the lead up to the 2018 General Election. Nonetheless, interviews with young people also showed them engaging in digital acts of resistance. In this study, I analyze one of these acts—platform-switching from social media sites to encrypted chat on WhatsApp.
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