Last week, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) announced he would post a weekly three-minute video online to discuss his political ideals. Sadly for him, research that I have conducted over many years of the online political environment informs us that he is using old technology to try to present himself as someone who understands the Internet era.
He’ll only be laughed at. Here’s why.
First, governments and leaders worldwide, including the British royal family and Cabinet, use YouTube. It is free, there is no need to set up a server and the Adobe Flash Player used on the platform is supported by most operating systems and browsers. It can even be watched on mobile phones and is easy to embed in blogs for commentary.
Ma, however, uses Microsoft Netshow, which means that Mac users are unable to see it. This begs the question: Aren’t there, among Macintosh and Linux users, people who voted for Ma, or would potentially do so in future elections?
From a technological perspective, he has therefore already become a laughing stock.
Another deplorable aspect of his initiative is that Ma only provides video of his speech; he does not follow the YouTube precedent that allows viewers to respond. Ma’s approach, then, remains a unilateral issuing of one-way information to Internet users.
Ma wants us to listen to what he has to say, but he doesn’t want to listen to the public. This is an aloof and authoritarian approach.
Not only is he using outdated technology, but his very mindset is outdated and entirely fails to understand the times we live in.
As a Facebook, Twitter and Plurk user, I am much more pleased with how former premier and presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) uses the Internet.
I’m a Facebook friend of Hsieh’s and I notice that he often uses Plurk to provide short and simple explanations of his view on current affairs and even some general life experiences.
Hsieh also invites Facebook and Plurk users to suggest topics they would like him to bring up during his radio call-in talk show.
He engages in debate and exchanges with Internet users, and sometimes he publishes his opinions from his mobile phone while traveling on the High Speed Rail.
What this tells us is that there is no difference between him and other Internet users: Hsieh is a regular person like the rest of us and displays none of the aloofness that could be the prerogative of a former premier.
The Democratic Progressive Party has already cast off the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) years and, when it comes to the Internet, it is now in step with the times.
Following US President Barack Obama’s clever use of the Internet during his presidential campaign, politicians all over the world have sought to emulate him.
However, simply imitating Obama by posting videos online is useless, if not passe.
Obama is a president of the Internet era and an avid BlackBerry user who never lets his telephone leave his side. He identifies with the ideas and perspectives of the Internet generation, which is why he has managed to use the Internet with success, both during his electoral campaign and since he came into office.
Without a change in thinking, leaders with an authoritarian mindset who use the Internet in the belief that this will mitigate criticism are in for a major surprise.
Martin Oei is a political commentator based in Hong Kong.