For some lucky members of society, they cannot imagine a life without the convenience of technology. We can communicate and maintain relationships with family, relatives, business partners anywhere in the world through cyberspace with the presence of hardware and the internet.

The convenience provided by cyberspace also provides tremendous possibilities for exchanging news, apart from true news, sometimes with questionable content a.k.a. hoaxes. Hoax or fake news created on purpose to deceive. Hoaxes existed before the internet. The difference is, the internet allows multiplication at speed and volume inconceivable a decade ago. These two factors make hoaxes a threat to society.

The most horrendous hoaxes in the world some time ago were those related to the defeat of former President Donald Trump. In his bid for the presidency for the second time, Trump lost in free and open elections. Some 60 complaints that Trump’s team filed in courts in various states were ultimately rejected. This is not a deterrent for Trump to spread out repeated tweets on a daily basis. He claimed he was cheated. He also incited his followers to thwart the election results in any way they could.

Believing in the fake news, many Trump supporters were angry. On January 6, 2021, thousands of supporters violently┬ástormed the Parliament (Capitol) Building. They wanted to thwart the ratification of the November 2020 election results by the Senate. The building was in ruins. The members of the House of Representatives and the senate survived the gang’s rampage, which the United States press later called this gang “domestic terrorists”.

All major social media outlets have blocked Trump’s access, even when he was still president. Before being blocked, nearly every tweet Trump sent in the past few months was labeled by Twitter as untrue. Trump’s Twitter account was then permanently closed. Indeed, the president is very dependent on Twitter, so important to the point that the appointments and dismissals of high-ranking officials and other important decisions were announced via Twitter. After Twitter, Facebook and Instagram also closed Trump’s official accounts. The fake news spread by Trump is considered to have triggered acts of violence.

Common Sense
This example quite clearly shows how social media, apart from making life more fun, has also caused big problems. Social media authorities are forced to take tough action against a president. In Indonesia, we are grateful that there are no hoaxes that have such a great impact. What many of us experience every day are hoaxes about the COVID-19 pandemic. Hoaxes are all over the place, from the exaggerated effects of the disease, its terrible pictures with no clear context, to miracle drugs that could prevent or cure this terrible disease.

Apart from the situation of the COVID-19 outbreak, hoaxes have also increased dramatically in the heated political situations. Especially during public official election campaigns. There are parties who deliberately, either for political interests or for fun, make or spread the news that is not based on facts about political actors or fraud by one of the parties. In such situations, it is even more important to refrain from creating chaos or hostility. Long-standing friendships or family relationships can be damaged if we don’t think long before spreading the news that we think is interesting even though it’s a hoax.

The first antidotes against hoaxes are common sense and critical thinking. Something that is hard to believe is likely to be untrustworthy in the end. It has often been stated by various parties not to carelessly forward untrustworthy news. If there is no clear source, let alone was shared along with the exclamation “make it viral immediately!” or the like, I will act the other way around, which is deleting it.

In addition, Indonesia has the ITE Law which is the basis for cracking down on the spreader of fake news that disturbs public order, so that an uproar like the one that occurred in the United States would not occur in Indonesia. After all, it is inconceivable for an Indonesian President to do the same fanfare as Trump did.

 

Noke Kiroyan
Chairman & Chief Consultant, Kiroyan Partners

This article has been published in PR Indonesia magazine 71st Edition, issued on February 2021, page 49.

 

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