Fierce rivalry in the concurrent legislative and presidential elections next year is expected to result in a flood of hoaxes and fake news as candidates and their supporters will use social media as a platform to win over voters, election observers say.
Association for Elections and Democracy (Perludem) director Titi Anggraini said the elections, which will have a coattail effect in which the influence of a particular figure could make or break a politician’s popularity, would trigger smear campaigns.
“The attitude of ‘ready to win, not ready to lose’ will prompt the use [by political actors and supporters] of hoaxes as tools to win the election,” she said during a discussion on Thursday.
Titi further explained that a higher electoral threshold from 3.5 to 4 percent and the increased number of political parties from 10 to 16 contesting the election would make them more competitive.
She suggested that each political party, candidate, the General Elections Commission (KPU) and the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) establish a quick response center to fact-check information spread through social media to counter any misinformation that may harm someone’s reputation.
Titi also suggested the two election organizers cooperate with the Communications and Information Ministry and social media enterprises in tackling the distribution of false information.
Eddy OS Hiariej, a law expert from Gadjah Mada University (UGM), seconded Titi, saying the police should deal with perpetrators who created or spread hoaxes and fake news to create a deterrent among society.
“People should know that campaigns must not cause division. They also must not produce false information about an individual or group, or offend people with sectarian issues,” he said.
Eddy said there were laws that could be used to deal with the creators and distributors of fake information, namely the Criminal Code, the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law and the General Elections Law.
“Misinformation and disinformation can lead to conflicts in the already polarized society,” he said. (sau)