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This Social Media Platform has Become an Influential Force in Elections Dominated by Young Voters

Older politicians are also jumping on the bandwagon and trying to learn everything about TikTok
Cover Image Source: (L) Getty Images | Athanasios Gioumpasis | (R) Pexels | Cotton bro Studios
Cover Image Source: (L) Getty Images | Athanasios Gioumpasis | (R) Pexels | Cotton bro Studios

Social media has emerged as a powerful force not just in marketing and trends, but also has the potential to influence elections. It's impact has been seen in political movements, and even in the US, the data leak by Facebook was blamed for having an impact on the 2016 Presidential polls. Now candidates in Indonesia are seeking Gen Z votes via platforms such as TikTok, as people between the minimum voting age of 17 and the age of 43 make up about 55% of the country's 205 million voters.

The country is reportedly the second biggest market for the popular video-sharing platform, and while in 2019 it was an Instagram election, this time it’s a TikTok-influenced election.

TikTok | aku_chandkelvin
TikTok | aku_chandkelvin

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto was seen dancing for the crowds, while the former governor of Jakarta Anies Baswedan is courting K-pop fans. The former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo was also seen on the platform promoting penguin-related posts to woo young TikTokers. 

 Ganjar Pranowo | Oscar Siagian
Ganjar Pranowo | Oscar Siagian

Prabowo Subianto's approach this year is very different from his earlier marketing technique which was inclined towards his macho image. One of his most popular campaign posts on TikTok garnered more than 49 million views and showed the man on the verge of tearing up after tough questioning in the second presidential debate. 

Many supporters, most young women also joined him and starting posted videos online in which they were seen weeping. Some even alleged that Prabowo had been a victim of bias.

Another candidate gained popularity among K-pop fans. A 22-year-female student user on X said, "He is the perfect fit for K-popification. When he did live TikTok, the background is like the ones used by K-pop idols, maybe it was the curtain."

The campaign team has taken note of the official supporters and is sending them videos and photos that they would like her to promote. 

Prabowo Subianto | Getty Images |  Ed Wray
Prabowo Subianto | Getty Images | Ed Wray

The third candidate's campaign is also about Top Gun jackets and penguin symbols. However, according to the team, they are most interested in him interacting naturally with voters on the ground to showcase his humble roots. 

"TikTok has unique characteristics. The algorithm values so much the authenticity and the originality of the videos,” says Karaniya Dharmasaputra, deputy for media channels on the Ganjar campaign team. "On TikTok, we prefer an unpolished kind of video. Instagram, I think values more the polished content."

While people are all for the new campaign style adopted by the not-so-young politicians, there are fears of potential misuse of the platform. 

"The short video format used on TikTok means most of the misinformation we see circulating on the platform consists of edited clips or footage shared out of context with a misleading or false caption," said a representative for AFP.

An NGO said that they were only able to debunk 7.4% of the hoaxes that they had caught on the platform.

"It’s on YouTube and Facebook that we found the most disinformation, but I think TikTok is catching up. Meaning a lot of hoaxes are now happening on TikTok," said Septiaji Nugroho, chairperson of Mafindo.