Taylor's FSLM Journals
Pandemic politics and communication crisis: How social media buzzers impaired the lockdown aspiration in Indonesia

@ SEARCH Journal of Media and Communication Research

Online ISSN: 2672-7080

*Iswandi Syahputra Rajab Ritonga, Diah Ajeng Purwani, Masduki, Syarifah Ema Rahmaniah & Umaimah Wahid


This study looks at the communication on social media in the initial period of the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia, specifically between the aspirations of citizens wishing for a lockdown and buzzers on Twitter rejecting it. Primary data of the study were obtained via interviews with three netizens who are social media activists. They were: CPL, an influencer on Twitter with 135,000 followers; HSW, a media literacy activist; and HA, a blogger. They were selected based on their influence and activities on social media as well as accessibility. The study identified two major findings: first, the public (netizens) via conversations on Twitter wanted the government to implement a lockdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the government disregarded this call by utilising buzzers on social media. In practice, these buzzers cyberbullied netizens who requested for a lockdown. Consequently, netizens became polarised between those supporting and opposing a lockdown. This triggered a communication crisis as it led to loss of trust in the government as it did not meet public expectations. Secondly, the government’s use of buzzers to shoot down calls for a lockdown positioned them as an apparatus in the crisis communication throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in the emergence of “buzzer regime” and “buzzer state” . Buzzers are a part of the government’s informal apparatus that engage in activities on social media to repress netizens who hold opposing views against the government.

Keywords: buzzer, crisis communication, lockdown, new media, COVID-19 pandemic