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The Big Story

WhatsApp grapples with outsized influence ahead of Asia polls

Chat service's strong security makes it easy to trust, hard to monitor

SIMON ROUGHNEEN, Asia regional correspondent | Southeast Asia

When Mahathir Mohamad's Alliance of Hope coalition surprised the world -- and perhaps even themselves -- by winning last May's parliamentary vote in Malaysia, it was not just the first-ever opposition election win in the country's history.

Some saw it as the result of the first "WhatsApp election," where the platform's encrypted private messaging provided a sanctuary for citizens to discuss politics away from the raucous finger-pointing of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

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