Event — IIAS Lunch Lecture

Social media and the global rise of New Authoritarianism: Facebook-based trolls and vigilante groups in Thailand and the Philippines

Bangkok is the city with the largest number of Facebook profiles in the world. The Philippines is top in worldwide social media use. But when it comes to politics, Facebook is a battlefield between supporters and opponents of the authoritarian regimes.

Lunch Lectures by IIAS fellow William Schaffar from the University of Passau, Germany.

Lunch is provided. Registration is required.


Thailand and the Philippines are two prominent examples of the decline of democracy in Southeast Asia. Despite the difference in how the current governments came to power, there are also striking similarities. One is the role of the middle class and political mobilisation on the internet for the rise and the consolidation of the authoritarian regimes.

Trolls and Facebook-based vigilante groups are instrumental in supporting the present regimes in Thailand and the Philippines. Often these groups are organized around a specific political slogan - such as the Rubbish Collector Organization in Thailand, which propagates to protect the monarchy, or various Philippine groups using the acronym DDS (Duterte Defence Squad, Duterte Diehard Supporters) which goes back to the Davao Death Squad vigilante group. Another common feature is the transnational character of these groups, the base of which often consists of overseas Thai or Philippino/as.

In his talk, Wolfram Schaffar will present work in progress of a comparative research project, in which he looks into Facebook groups of different ethnic communities in countries such as Germany, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands and the UK. His focus is on transnational aspects: the consti­tu­tive role of the diasporic situation of the activists for their self-identification and their ideo­logical orientation, the transnational scope of the groups' activities, and the emergence of an inter- and transnational movement in support of authoritarianism.

Wolfram Schaffar is associated researcher at the chair of Southeast Asian Studies, University of Passau. From 2010 until 2018, he has been working as professor for development studies and political science at the Department of Development Studies at the University of Vienna. Prior to this, he was affiliated to the University of Bonn and to Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. His fields of interest are state theory of the Global South, social movements, new constitutionalism and democratisation processes, as well as new authoritarianism.

Schaffar, Wolfram and Naruemon Thabchumpol (2018): "Social media-based far right movements in Thailand". in: Emanuele Toscano (ed.): Researching far right movements. Ethics, methodologies and qualitative inquiries. London: Routledge, 102-116.

Registration (required)

Please use the web-form on the right-hand side of this page to register (if you would like us to cater for your lunch, by Friday 20 September, 12:00 hrs.).