Indonesian Government, Communities Fight Internet Hoaxes

Zahara Tiba
170106_ID_fakenews_1000.jpg An internet user in Jakarta reads an article telling how to fight hoaxes, Jan. 6, 2017.
Afriadi Hikmal/BenarNews

Hoaxes flooding the internet, particularly on social media sites, have driven concerned activists to establish a group calling itself the Indonesian Community of Anti-Slander Research.

The government is getting involved in a similar effort. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo recently announced plans to set up a National Cyber Agency (BCN).

Presidential spokesman Johan Budi said the agency would do much more than just help tackle hoaxes or other cases of so-called “fake news.”

“The agency is aimed at securing the government’s internet system from potential hacking. It is set up to create a secure system, to protect from cyber crime,” Johan told BenarNews.

“[I]f there are efforts initiated by communities to combat hoaxes, the government will weigh in on them. So people will learn not to use social media to conduct slander,” he said, adding, “In the end, we hope people can recognize fake news and know how to fight against it.”

Meanwhile, Wiranto, who is Indonesia’s coordinating minister for politics, law and security affairs, said the government would enforce laws against those involved in distributing fake news.

“We have instructed the police to be firm. No compromise,” Wiranto told CNN Indonesia. “Social media should not be used for negative purposes such as attacking individuals, groups and even the government’s policies.”

Regarding the government’s plan to set up the BCN, Wiranto said officials hope it would aid in ridding the internet of hoaxes and in providing information that people need to identify fake news.

The Antihoax Research Committee

Septiaji Eko Nugroho, of Wonosobo, Central Java, helped set up another group, the Antihoax Research Community. Activists in several cities including Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Solo, Semarang and Jakarta are working to remove negative web content and distribute more positive social media.

“We held a number of discussions on hoaxes distributed on social media. A friend has even dedicated time to create an application to identify hoaxes,” Septiaji told BenarNews.

“It becomes a problem when the public starts to leave the mainstream media and visit unreliable websites. It’s like escaping one problem and starting a new one. It’s not getting better. It’s even worse by consuming fake news,” said Septiaji, who runs a business in information technology.

Differences in political and religious point of views, he added, have divided the public.

“These differences were not visible until now. Social media facilitates those who take advantages from the growing issue, while some others lack of knowledge to understand,” he said.

‘Better late than never’

The government has been slow to respond, Septiaji added.

“But it’s better late than never. We have to fix it together,” he said.

The first thing to do, Septiaji said, is enforce the law because, in his opinion, those responsible for distributing fake news should be charged.

“We hope there will be no violation in the implementation. Those who violate the laws must be punished. Don’t let them go free. It would not solve the problem just by blocking those malicious websites,” he said.

Human Rights Watch activist Andreas Harsono welcomes these public initiatives.

“They are responsible for keeping the core values of journalism alive. I think what they do is incredible,” the former journalist told BenarNews.

Andreas pointed out that professionalism could be questioned as the number of journalists has skyrocketed since the fall of the Suharto government in 1998.

“There were only 6,000 journalists before reformation era. But in the past 10 years, the number has grown to 75,000. I can say most of them have less skills,” he said.

“But I believe that democracy is born along with journalism. They will also die together. That’s why it is important for us to develop healthy journalism and protect the society from fake news and hoaxes.”

The Ministry of Communication and Information appreciates public initiatives to eradicate hoaxes.

“It is something positive and the government is ready to cooperate,” spokesman Noor Iza told BenarNews.

‘Fingers are your tiger’

Meanwhile, Nahdlatul Ulama secretary Marsudi Syuhud told BenarNews that the traditionalist Muslim organization he is leading is one step ahead of the government by introducing “cyber warriors.”

The team’s original goal was to eradicate radicalism and extremism online.

“It’s so sad to see our society taking part in spreading false news which can lead to unwanted slander. It is sinful to do that,” Syuhud said.

“Indonesians used to have a proverb saying, ‘Your Mouth is Your Tiger,’ it is now ‘Your Fingers are Your Tiger.’”


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