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Tackling Hoaxes in Elections

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Hoax has been around for ages and it imposes a great deal of effect in elections. Many have predicted that hoaxes will again be produced and distributed in high frequency in the upcoming elections, the 2018 Local Elections and 2019 National Elections. Hoaxes will proliferate in areas where the population has a relatively high social media engagement, like in Jakarta. It is necessary for us to find effective solution to tackle this problem so we can maintain our civil liberty.

The Research Director of the Institution for Society Research and Advocacy (Elsam), Wahyudi Jafar, in a public discussion titled “The Proliferation of Hoaxes and the Threats to Our Civil Liberty” in Jakarta (09/27), explains the definition and causes of hoax proliferation and how to handle it. Quoting Emery (2004), hoax is any act, document, or other artifacts, that is intended to deceive the public. The term “hoax” itself was first used in 1806, and it is different from fake news because hoax may not be distributed as news. Hoax may be distributed as pictures, audio materials, and audio-visual materials.

“In Indonesia, more people are getting aware of this problem since 2016 in the upcoming of the 2017 Local Elections. This may be because the population of Jakarta have a relatively high engagement with social media and smartphone. In 2018, the same trend may occur in West Java,” says Wahyudi.

Wahyudi then explains the factors that could turn a hoax into a large-scale societal problem. First, high-frequency of hoax reproduction and distribution that the hoax itself is regarded as truth. Second, low rate of public literacy. Third, psychological aspect and ideological factor: a person is tend to redistribute a hoax if the content of the hoax is somehow align with the person’s ideology or belief.

Fourth, the line that separates the public and private domain is getting thin. Fifth, the interaction between supply and demand is getting dynamic. Sixth, the mainstream media have gotten irrelevant due to the lost of confidence from the public to conventional media.

An activist of #TurnBackHoax, Aribowo Sasmito, says, censorship is clearly not effective. Anyone can easily make new social media account anytime they like. Hoax will persist as long as there is media.

“Hoax is proliferating because, among other reasons, the mainstream media have lost their credibility. Most of them are politically affiliated,” says Ari.

The Director of Indonesia New Media Watch, Agus Sudibyo, says, so far, authorities are only focusing on punishing hoax producers and distributors. According to Agus, the social media companies also have the responsibility to resolve this issue.

“Facebook, Twitter, and search engine company like Google, are basically the same with Metro TV, detik.com, and other news media outlets. They are private enterprises whose activities are heavily related with public interests, so they have the responsibility to educate society. Government could insist these companies to fulfill their responsibility to tackle hoaxes,” says Agus.

Agus then provide Germany as an example in tackling this issue. Initially, German Parliament requested Facebook to filter hoax content in their service. In the end, both parties agreed to open a hoax prevention center where Facebook can receive reports from users 24 hours a day.

“We could also change our school curriculum to provide our schoolchildren with a more contextual education on how to use social media and other technology,” says Agus.

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