Najib Razak has found himself the target of a barrage of criticism on Facebook, joining opposition leaders and prominent activists aligned with them who had recently come together to call for the ouster of former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
The continuous criticism of Najib, however, marks a break from previous occasions on which he used social media to question the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Najib had appeared to be relishing Muhyiddin’s resignation with the now-familiar one-liners that had characterised his social media campaign since he was ousted from power in the 2018 general election.
But even a post urging Malaysians to support the national contingent at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games saw him criticised for his role in causing a power vacuum in the midst of the pandemic.
“With the government of TSMY (Muhyiddin) gone, so too are all your wise ideas on Covid.
“Usually you would start your day on Facebook with a mantra of all the wrongdoings by TSMY on Covid-19. Maybe TSMY has taken Covid with him. With him gone, Covid is also gone,” said a user.
Another reminded Najib of the MPs he had gathered to revoke support for Muhyiddin, causing the government to lose its majority.
“During the Olympics, the sports and youth minister from Umno was together with our athletes (to support them).
“But thanks to the pack of 15 MPs, the paralympic athletes will fight without the minister around,” the user said, referring to Reezal Merican Naina Merican, one of more than 20 Umno MPs who had refused to heed Najib’s call to resign.
Najib together with Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had been at the forefront of a series of attempts to topple Muhyiddin. The duo had also backed PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim in his bid for the top office.
Since his fall from power in 2018, which was followed by shocking revelations of millions of dollars of cash and luxury items in his keeping, Najib’s communications team has sought to rebuild his image using the power of social media.
The former prime minister has roughly 4.5 million followers on Facebook, although doubts remain over the figure some eight years after an expose by a UK-based software developer which placed Najib among the top of a list of political leaders with fake followers.
Using the “Fake Follower Check” he had developed, Rob Waller found that Najib had the largest proportion of fake followers compared to seven other leaders from the US, Australia, India, Thailand, Japan, Singapore and Vietnam.
He also found that some 70% of Najib’s 1.4 million followers at that time were fake.
Waller’s app was later terminated due to changes in social media ecosystems. To date there is no effective tool to gauge the authenticity of one’s social media support, especially with the existence of cybertroopers – those tasked with artificially propping up support for a certain cause or leader, usually through the use of multiple fake profiles.