The threat of hoaxes and provocations ahead of the 2024 elections is becoming a hot topic of discussion. Various measures to anticipate the spread of hoaxes have been suggested by experts.
The UGM Department of Communication Science students are working to prepare anti-hoax strategies through a Fact-Checking Workshop with the theme “Check The Fact, See Through The Fake: Combating Information Disruption Towards the 2024 Elections,” held on September 9-10, 2023.
The training, initiated by the Student Corps of Communication, collaborates with the Independent Journalists Alliance (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen or AJI) and the Google News Initiative (GNI).
Zainuddin Muda Z. Monggilo, a lecturer in the UGM Department of Communication Science, was the main speaker to discuss the urgency of combating hoaxes.
“The digital literacy index in Indonesia is still not proportional to immunity against hoaxes and the desired literacy level. One reason is that many social media hoaxes are considered official news,” Monggilo explained.
“This has a negative impact and makes people mostly underestimate news from professional journalism, especially when it enters the extraordinary election contestation realm. There’s hate speech, provocation, and it leads to polarization.”
The spread of hoaxes is not only due to the low ability of the public to detect information but also because of the confusion in finding credible sources.
The digital era and freedom of speech allow information to flow quickly and overlap, exposing people to the fastest rather than the most accurate information.
Many social media contents adapt information from journalistic media but modify the actual information. This is further supported by the digital habits of the public, who spend more time on social media without the ability to distinguish between true and false information.
“Based on available data, the most common activity on digital platforms in Indonesia is watching YouTube. Checking news websites still ranks lower,” Monggilo said.
“As some research has shown, TikTok is skyrocketing as a social media platform and has the potential to become a breeding ground for hoaxes. Even now, information trends drive the platform, so news websites follow whatever viral topics are trending.”
However, research has found anomalies in the public’s information access habits. Although social media is the most accessible, people still consider the credibility of television and news higher.
This anomaly makes it difficult to conclude whether Indonesian society is immune to hoaxes. However, Monggilo also emphasized that the urgency of combating hoaxes has been proven by various incidents of unrest caused by the spread of hoaxes.
The dissemination of false information, especially when it’s provocative, can lead to negative sentiments and conflicts. Additionally, the conditions leading up to the 2024 elections have prompted many supporters to campaign and provoke each other.
Monggilo urges the public to actively engage in independent fact-checking and utilize fact-checking resources for free, such as cekfakta.com.
“So, there is a specific website for checking whether a news story is a hoax. This collaboration was established around 2018, initially to prepare for the 2019 elections. Media outlets felt that the potential for hoaxes in Indonesia was rampant, so these media outlets and civil society communities collaborated to help combat hoaxes,” Monggilo said.
“This collaboration was phenomenal and gained international attention because media outlets that usually compete are now working together to check whether the information circulating is a hoax.”
Monggilo also explained that collaborative efforts to combat hoaxes are conducted under the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) umbrella. This organization brings together all fact-checking agencies to ensure that media information remains independent.
“The existence of cekfakta.com and collaboration between the media and academics to combat hoaxes is expected to help the public distinguish between accurate and hoax information,” he added.
“Thus, the impact of hoaxes can be minimized because society has become more resilient, leading to the 2024 elections being less affected by hoaxes and provocations.”