Indonesia’s communications ministry is stepping up the fight against misinformation with weekly briefings to discredit “fake news” and promote digital literacy ahead of a presidential election next year.
Indonesian Communications Minister Rudiantara said the program is intended to help Indonesian readers identify fake stories and stay informed, the Guardian reports.
“Every week we will announce hoax news,” he told CNN Indonesia. “The ministry will not just stamp a story as hoax, but we will also provide facts.”
The briefings will be held weekly and commence as soon as possible, Rudiantara added. The ministry also launched a 70-member content monitoring team to identify fake news stories. The debunked posts will be listed on a website, StopHoax.id.
Indonesia boasts one of the largest active social media audiences in the world, according to local newspaper the Jakarta Globe. The world’s most populous Muslim country counts millions of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users. But it has also already experienced the ways that fake news and misinformation can be used to manipulate political campaigns and inflame social tensions.
Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is known by the nickname “Ahok,” was unseated in a contentious election last year and sentenced to two years in prison on blasphemy charges. Ahok, a leading Chinese Christian in Muslim-majority Indonesia, was targeted in both on and off-line campaigns by hardline groups that accused him of insulting the Koran.
An investigation by the Guardian this year uncovered a group known as the Muslim Cyber Army, which paid users to manage hundreds of fake social media accounts and spread inflammatory content intended to dissuade Indonesian Muslims from supporting Ahok.
Analysts are now warning that disinformation and divisive social media use could also influence Indonesia’s 2019 election, according to the Guardian. The poll is expected to pit current President Joko Widodo against former general Prawobo Subianto in a replay of Indonesia’s 2014 match-up.