Rising Tide of Disinformation Hits Indonesian Election Campaign

As Indonesia gears up for the upcoming presidential election, disinformation has emerged as a significant concern, prompting government interventions and calls for social media platforms to take action. Since the opening of candidate registration, the Ministry of Communications and Informatics has grappled with a surge in fake news, commonly referred to as “hoaxes” in Indonesia. The ministry has issued at least 15 clarifications to debunk false claims circulating on various platforms.

With campaigning set to begin on November 28 and over 200 million Indonesians expected to cast their votes on February 14, the disinformation campaigns targeting top candidates have intensified. Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, former Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo, and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan face a barrage of false narratives online. These hoaxes, often accompanied by manipulated images or videos, aim to capture attention and fuel misinformation.

Government warnings have addressed various misleading claims, including a fake TikTok account offering prizes in Ganjar’s name, false allegations of Anies failing a mental health check, and misinformation about Prabowo’s eligibility due to age. Even vice-presidential candidates, like Gibran Rakabuming Raka, have been targeted, with a video falsely depicting him playing explicit content during a presentation.

Minister of Communication and Informatics Budi Arie Setiadi highlighted a significant increase in hoaxes since July, emphasizing the government’s commitment to counter disinformation. Collaborating with Meta, the ministry has already flagged and urged the removal of 454 pieces of fake content related to the election, primarily found on Facebook.

While disinformation has been a recurrent issue in Indonesian elections, the ministry reports a surge in 2024. From January 19 to October 27, 101 election-related hoax issues were identified, surpassing the total for the entire year of 2022 (11 issues). The campaign’s impact extends beyond politicians, affecting the General Elections Commission and related entities, sowing distrust.

As part of ongoing efforts, the ministry has launched the “Beware of 2024 Election Hoaxes” campaign, urging public cooperation to combat misinformation. Home Affairs Minister Tito Karnavian has also warned of “black campaigns” that could polarize society, urging police patrols in cyberspace to address potential conflicts fueled by false information.

Comment: The surge in disinformation surrounding the Indonesian election underscores the growing challenge of fake news in shaping public opinion. Social media platforms play a pivotal role in amplifying these falsehoods, necessitating proactive measures to curb the spread of misinformation and safeguard the integrity of the electoral process.

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