On Saturday (July 11th 2015) between 4.50pm – 5.00pm two Malay youths were apprehended by Oppo salesperson(s) while allegedly running away after stealing a phone from another store at Low Yat Plaza. One was released and later returned at night (7.50 pm) with other youths to take revenge on the Oppo store and salesperson(s) involved . Video footage of the fight started to go viral later that night.
The majority of users were sharing the video and expressing surprise. Few users openly expressed support/respect for the Malay youths involved in the initial fight on Saturday. There were more users commenting that Low Yat traders (specifically Chinese) were known to be cheats.
On Sunday (July 12th) there was little discussion about the incident on Twitter. Starting at 4pm a link to a blog post (http://www.utaranews.com/2015/07/rusuhan-besar-akan-berlaku-di-low-yatt.html) was tweeted out stating that there was going to be a riot at Low Yat Plaza ‘soon’ allegedly ‘in retaliation to cheating by Chinese traders’. The source for this news was not stated, and the link was tweeted out together with hashtags #melayubersatu and #kekalnajib.
Example of how it was shared:
— unit media baru PPUM (@unitmediabaru) July 12, 2015
On Sunday night at 7pm a large group of Malay youths gathered outside Low Yat Plaza and tried to gain entry. However they were stopped by police and ordered to disperse. After midnight they returned and started to begin fights outside Low Yat . Five people were injured  and a car was badly damaged by the rioters.
2. Current Findings
We collected 149,107 tweets from 63,538 users who mentioned Low Yat and related hashtags from July 11th – 14th 2015. Additionally we collected 228,781 tweets from 111,846 users mentioning race-related terms e.g. melayu; cina; rasis; malays; perkauman. This does not include ‘chinese’ as that keyword is used globally and will need to be examined separately if possible.
Of the 63,538 users who mentioned Low Yat, 29,014 users (45.67%) mentioned racial terms.
The earliest tweet we found mentioning the fight on Saturday night was sent at 7.57 pm:
BIG ASS FIGHT IN LOW YAT PLAZA
— dayoncé (@damini_sivasamy) July 11, 2015
From an initial survey of the tweets there appears to be a significant number of Twitter users who believe that Low Yat traders sell counterfeit goods and cheat customers. This was a consistent message being repeated.
An estimated 12,500 users (20% of total) talking about Low Yat specifically mentioned cheating traders; Malays being cheated or counterfeit phones. Some users criticised Malays for shopping at Low Yat, because the traders are ‘well known’ for being cheats.
5,905 users mentioned a boycott of Low Yat though not all of them were supportive of it – a number were critical of the idea.
2.1 Promotion of Malay businesses
Many users started to promote Malay-owned businesses as an alternative to Low Yat. These were the most popularly shared tweets:
KENA kencing dengan peniaga scammer Plaza Low Yat? Ayuh support kedai Malays Muslim di Uptown Kota Damansara 😉 pic.twitter.com/wT0JAWZLde
— HAZIQ ASYRAF JR (@Haziq_Escobar) July 12, 2015
— Farid Fauzi (@muhdfaridfauzi) July 12, 2015
There were also users tweeting jokes related to the fight and riot. Examples are:
— Nisa (@NisaAzmn) July 12, 2015
Kalau letak Cina dengan Maslan kat Lowyat. Trust me, cina dengan melayu akan bersatu pukul Maslan. Cubalah if tak percaya.
— LawakTahapDewa (@lawaktahapdewa) July 12, 2015
— IZ + x (@IZ_fusion) July 12, 2015
2.3 Emphasis on avoiding distraction
There were also users complaining that people should not get distracted by the Low Yat incident as other issues such as 1MDB are more important.
penamat kepada kes Plaza Low Yat. so skrg dah boleh move on dan fokus kembali kepada melayu yg menipu sebanyak 42bil. pic.twitter.com/Sy4SIjQT1I
— Khairil Anuar (@KhairilAnuar) July 13, 2015
— Syed Khairuzman (@sksz311) July 13, 2015
2.4 Racial remarks
Frequent racial comparisons were also being made by users. Examples are:
- Users asking, “Why are Petaling Street traders; illegal actitivies in Bukit Bintang area (e.g. prostitution) and Low Yat traders protected from raids whereas Malay traders are not protected?”
- the raid at Uptown Shah Alam was mentioned as an example (http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/crackdown-on-malay-traders-not-racial-domestic-trade-minister-says). Some of the tweets highlighted the incident as racial due to the raid being on Malay traders. Examples are:
Kpdnkk nih ble Melayu niaga, abes kau angkut smua, tgk kt uptown sha alam.. brpe pniaga rugi..Tp kalau Cina mniage brg ciplak kau buat xtau.
— Azrul_Jamal (@Azrul_Jamal) July 13, 2015
Peniaga Uptown Shah Alam kena “rembat” dengan kpdnkk sebab barang tk ori, tapi peniaga di Low Yat jual barang tak ori tk kena “rembat” pula
— Fahmi Zainol (@fahmizainol_) July 12, 2015
- Users questioning why DAP always comes out to defend Chinese traders but not the Malay traders
- Users questioning why the authorities (KPDNKK) publicly announced they are going to inspect Low Yat before they arrive; whereas for Malay traders they do surprise raids
In the lead-up to the raid on Sunday we found little evidence of users calling for Malays to ‘come down’ and show support or riot.
One popular user (@ehshiedan) sent a number of tweets about the boycott, gathering and news coverage. Some of these tweets were racially-toned e.g.
— ⠀ (@ehshiedan) July 12, 2015
— ⠀ (@ehshiedan) July 12, 2015
Yang video bdk melayu sesah cina 2 3 org tunjuk, yg video bdk melayu kena sesah dgn cina ramai2 tak tunjuk, celaka @tv3malaysia
— ⠀ (@ehshiedan) July 12, 2015
— ⠀ (@ehshiedan) July 12, 2015
Another user praised the Malay youths from Saturday’s fight:
— Nasionalis (@Nasionalis_) July 12, 2015
It is not clear at this point how influential these tweets were at stirring up support for the Malay youths involved in the fight.
This graph shows users tweeting about Low Yat versus users tweeting with racial terms (e.g. melayu; cina; malays). Not all mentions of racial terms refer to the incident. However the sudden increase shows some correlation between both groups.
In this network diagram we can show how groups of users are clustered around different topics. There are a total of 126,450 users in the network. Each blue node is a user, with the largest nodes indicating the topics ‘Low Yat’, ‘Cina’ and ‘Melayu’. Nodes are clustered based on the topic(s) indicated by their position.
There is a sizable amount of users talking about all 3 topics.
The word cloud below shows the most popular words tweeted together with ‘Low Yat’ and related hashtags. The words are sized based on their popularity – popular words have larger font sizes.
The word cloud below shows the most popular words tweeted together with ‘Cina’.
Unfortunately we were unable to generate a word cloud for tweets mentioning Malays due to the large volume involved.
There is some racial sentiment being expressed by users which has been triggered by this incident. However the racial remarks are not widely retweeted and don’t show up in a listing of popularly shared content. This means that individual calls for racial conflict did not gain traction.
There appears to be a genuine belief that Low Yat traders sell counterfeit goods and cheat customers. The publicity surrounding the incident at Low Yat triggered an outpouring of racial remarks. However the remarks are also not clearly separated into Malay criticism of Chinese and vice versa. There are Malay speakers criticising Malays as well. A deeper analysis is needed to understand the conversation, and the extent of the belief that Low Yat traders cheat their customers.
5. Scale of Importance on Twitter
5.1 The scale of conversation
This network graph shows how Twitter users tweeting about Low Yat and related hashtags from July 11th – July 14th were connected. This includes all users on Twitter limited to those who retweeted or had conversations with each other. This does not include users who were only tweeting about racial terms e.g. melayu; cina. This helps visualise the scale of the conversation.
Each user is represented by a node (circle) that is coloured based on the number of their tweets that were retweeted and the number of tweets sent to them. The more attention they receive, the larger the node. Any node that retweets another node or tweets to another node is connected.
Nodes are positioned based on their connections to other nodes – strong connections pull them closer. Large nodes are considered influential within the network. We have coloured the nodes based on a scale of blue (least influential) to green; yellow; orange; red; and purple (most influential).
Due to the scale of the graph, we can only show names from the top 1196 most influential users as seen below:
There are 58,232 users with 111,287 connections within the unfiltered graph. The most popular users were:
6. References (2015, July 12) Melee in Low Yat Plaza. The Star Online. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2015/07/12/Melee-thugs-Low-Yat/  (2015, July 12) Rusuhan Besar akan berlaku di Low Yatt tak lama lagi.. #repeat #lowyatt #melayubersatu #kekalnajib. Utaranews.com. Retrieved from http://www.utaranews.com/2015/07/rusuhan-besar-akan-berlaku-di-low-yatt.html  (2015, July 13) Tensions reignited outside Low Yat Plaza in fresh violence, several injured. The Malaysian Insider. Retrieved from http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/tensions-reignited-outside-low-yat-plaza-in-fresh-violence  (2015, July 13) Five injured in mob attack at Low Yat Plaza. The Star Online. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2015/07/13/Low-Yat-mob-attack/  Mayuri, M. L. (2015, July 13) Crackdown on Malay traders not racial, domestic trade minister says. Malay Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/crackdown-on-malay-traders-not-racial-domestic-trade-minister-says