Lessons Learned After Crackdown on Fake News and Hate Speech Group Saracen

Indonesia: Fake news group called Saracen arrested. Ketiga, Tersangka, Kasus.

Indonesia’s effort to combat the widespread of fake news continues following the arrest of hoax news spreading group, Saracen. Indonesia’s Minister of Law and Human Rights, Yasona Laoly, suggested that social media users are required to register in social media channels using their National Identity Cards in order to prevent false news from spreading. According to the Minister, other countries have also applied similar procedures. He added that social media users are not allowed to use fake photograph and names when signing up their social media accounts.

Indonesia waged a war against the spreading of fake news after The National Police named three members of hoax news spreading-group, Saracen, as suspects on August 25, 2017. A few days later, one person was nabbed in Pekanbaru related to the involvement with the group.

However, Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Informatics has yet to block the site as the police will use it for further investigation. In addition, the country’s police are now focusing on tracing the financial transaction activity of the hate speech group. So far, the law-enforcement body is partnering with The Financial Transaction Report and Analysis Center (PPATK) to find out how a flow of funds was received by the network from certain parties to create hate-based contents based on religion, ethnicity, and race.

The era of social media enables users the opportunity to express their opinions about everything. However, a freedom of expression is often misinterpreted by some other groups to post information whose validity is questioned. Ironically, people tend to believe what they read before verifying and then share to groups or post on their social media accounts.

Recently, a blogger has been reported for creating posts that defamed President Joko Widodo. The man also wrote that one of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organizations, PBNU, allegedly received Rp 1.5 trillion as a bribe to support the issuance of the Indonesian Government by law on Mass Organization.

Hate Speech Contents: How scary is the trend?

According to reports released by the Ministry of Communication and Informatics, the numbers of hateful contents reached the peak in January 2017 (5.142), ahead of the first round of Jakarta gubernatorial election, then dropped to 94 in July 2017. While the Jakarta election helped the numbers of false news contents to soar to 5.070 in January 2017, then fell to 48.

In December 2016, President Joko Widodo held a special meeting to discuss the danger of hoax news widespread on social media. Based on the data, 52 percent of the Indonesia population was Internet active users. And 129 million of which are active social media users.

The growing numbers of Internet users and websites are followed by the increase in hate speech contents on websites. According to Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Informatics (per December 2016), there were 800,000 websites in the country which spread false news and hateful contents.

Further investigation conducted by the Cyber Crime Division in the National Police revealed that Saracen group owned around 800,000 accounts that often air harmful contents based on race, ethnicity, and religion on Facebook.

Allegedly, the group also set a price of Rp 75 to Rp 100 million in a proposal of hateful content creation.

The Government’s Effort and What Society Can do to Tackle the Spread of Fake News

So far, the authority has done its best to help people spot fake news circulating on websites. The related Ministry has forged a partnership with U.S-based social media firm Facebook, and Google, to oversee the spread of hoax, and block negative contents such as hate speeches and pornography.

Moreover, the Ministry is helping to inform people which websites are not credible, for their own reference.

Informative workshops increase the population’s Internet literacy. People tend to click ”share”, without verifying the information they receive. It is important for both government agencies and non-profit organizations to educate people on how to spot fake contents.

In the education sector, school teachers are trained to teach a skill called “21st Century Skills”, which include literacy skills (media literacy, technology literacy, and information literacy). After the training, teachers are able to help develop students’ critical thinking about what information they consume over the web.

Bottom line, the old question of whether the information is factual and worth sharing holds even truer in the Era of Information. Now, like before, the involvement of all social elements is vital in the efforts to draw a defined line between reliable information and fake stories.

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