Indonesia’s misinformation program favours obedience of its citizenry over independent thought

Indonesia's misinformation programe favours obedience of its citizenry over independent thought.

Indonesia’s government has funded a thorough media literacy program. But rather than stopping misinformation, it may serve to undermine independent thought

#Indonesia’s government has funded a thorough media literacy program. But rather than stopping #greenwashing and #misinformation, it may serve to undermine independent thought. Story: @360info_global #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife

Like many countries, Indonesia’s online space is polluted by fake news, misinformation, and disinformation. As the country’s digital economy continues to grow, the government is focusing on cleaning it up. 

Indonesia has the largest web-based economic productivity in Southeast Asia, with a digital economy valued at an estimated US$70 billion in 2021 that will reach approximately US$330 billion by 2030.

To face up to the challenge of misinformation and boost the country’s digital competitiveness, Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information established a national digital literacy program called Siber Kreasi in 2018. When it was first running, the literacy program reached 125,000 people in 350 locations. 

Later, Siber Kreasi was divided into digital literacy and digital talent scholarship programs. In 2021, the digital literacy program reached around 12 million people through 20,000 online literacy classes.

The government literacy program is the largest in the country, bigger than programs in schools, universities, Community Service Organisations, or digital companies. Indonesia’s Minister of Information and Communication Johnny Plate expects the program to reach 50 million people by the end of President Joko Widodo’s second term at the end of 2024.

The program’s focus areas are digital skills, culture, safety, and ethics, with digital culture and ethics addressing misinformation. Webinars related to digital ethics stress how to be a good citizen on the internet.

However, the content of learning materials, especially in the focus areas of digital ethics and digital culture, seem to emphasise obedience to the state over critical thinking and media literacy.

The digital ethics topics emphasise a world-view that accords with the government’s: “becoming a Pancasila society on the internet” (living based on the Indonesian state philosophy), “digital literacy within a national perspective”, “how to go viral without losing your morals”, and “women understand ethics”.

Webinars for the literacy program also remind people of the Information and Electronic Transactions Law, known as UU ITE. This law is seen as the government’s weapon against opposition and is used to stifle criticism — it was invoked during the arrest of activists in PapuaSemuaBisaKena — a  website dedicated to documenting cases on UU ITE — records 768 cases brought between 2016 and 2020.

These aspects of the program give the impression of state-sanctioned intimidation of critics and dissidents.

Meanwhile, the webinar format is a one-way lecture that limits interaction between speakers and audiences. With four to six speakers each, the format does not encourage critical thinking and seems ineffective at helping audiences understand the application of the knowledge. 

The economic advantage of social media and digital platforms is also exaggerated. In digital culture, topics include “becoming an influencer”, “earn money through social media”, or “build your brand on social media”. These matters frame social media as a fast-track to wealth.  This focus comes at the expense of an education that could teach users how to critically think about issues, such as digital advertising or the content served to them by social media algorithms.

The literacy program has led Indonesians to believe the government will stop misinformation, as opposed to individuals. A 2021 national survey conducted by the Ministry of Information and Communication and Kata Data Insight shows

63% of 10,000 people surveyed believed the ministry was the number one actor responsible for stopping the distribution of hoaxes — an increase from 54.8% of the 1,670 respondents in 2020. 

The program can reach millions of people in a year, but the number of people who want to take action to prevent hoaxes is declining. Those who would reprimand others who spread hoaxes declined from 26.9 percent in 2020 to 17.9 in 2021, while those who will ignore or delete fake news increased from 7.4 percent in 2020 to 8.5 the year after.

The literacy program, though reaching millions, may not be as effective as the government hopes, especially at preventing the spread of misinformation. 

An old African proverb says it takes a village to raise a child. Although the Indonesian government has an essential role in stopping misinformation, the entire community must actively participate to completely nullify it.

The literacy program is supposed to be an empowering program to stimulate critical thinking skills, but instead it risks strengthening the state’s power over its people. 

Dr Ika Idris is an associate professor at Public Policy & Management, Monash University Indonesia. Her works focus on government communication, misinformation, and the internet’s impacts on society. Dr Idris declared no conflicts of interest in relation to this article.

This article was first published on February 14, 2022.

Originally published under Creative Commons by 360info™.


Dr Setia Budhi: Dayak Ethnographer on media bias and misinformation in Indonesia

Dayak Indigenous Ethnographer Dr Setia Budhi: In His Own Words

The news about child labour, child slavery and women working on oil palm plantations in horrific conditions gets little attention in media.

News about customary Dayak lands that are seized for palm oil illegally or by force is online only momentarily and quickly disappears. These violations human rights are rendered invisible by the media in here.

“In our news hungry and busy world, most people don’t read beyond the headlines. The messy, corrupt and invisible world of massive land-clearing for palm oil goes on without the world knowing about it through the media. In the meantime, tropical rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia are silently disappearing.” ~ Dr Setia Budhi.

Read full story

Ten Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing - Palm Oil Detectives - 6

Research studies of SE Asian media reporting on palm oil show a denialist and greenwashing narrative that is similar to climate change denialism i.e. climate change greenwashing.

“We found that media reporting of the denialist narrative is more prevalent than that of the peer-reviewed science consensus-view that palm oil plantations on tropical peat could cause excessive greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the risk of fires.

“Our article alerts to the continuation of unsustainable practices as justified by the media to the public, and that the prevalence of these denialist narratives constitute a significant obstacle in resolving pressing issues such as transboundary haze, biodiversity loss, and land-use change related greenhouse gas emissions in Southeast Asia.”

~ Liu, Felicia & Ganesan, Vignaa & Smith, Thomas. (2020). Contrasting communications of sustainability science in the media coverage of palm oil agriculture on tropical peatlands in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Environmental Science & Policy. 114. 162-169. 10.1016/j.envsci.2020.07.004.

Read more about palm oil industry greenwashing, manipulation and misinformation

Greenwashing Tactic #4: Fake Labels

Claiming a brand or commodity is green based on unreliable, ineffective endorsements or eco-labels such as the RSPO, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or FairTrade coffee and cocoa. Greenwashing: Fake Labels and fake certifications…

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10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing

Greenwashing Tactic #1: Hidden Trade Off

When a brand makes token changes while continuing with deforestation, ecocide or human rights abuses in another part of their business – this is ‘Hidden Trade Off’ For example, Nestle talks up satellite monitoring to stop palm oil deforestation. Yet…

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Greenwashing Tactic #2: No Proof

Claiming a brand or commodity is green without any supporting evidence The RSPO promises to deliver this with their certification: 1. Improves the livelihoods of small holder farmers 2. Stops illegal indigenous land-grabbing and human rights abuses 3. Stops deforestationThey…

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Greenwashing Tactic #3: Vagueness

Claiming a brand or commodity is ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ based on broad generalisations, unclear language or vague statements Jump to section Greenwashing: Vagueness in Language Greenwashing: Vagueness in certification standards Reality: Auditing of RSPO a failure Quote: EIA: Who Watches…

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Greenwashing Tactic #4: Fake Labels

Claiming a brand or commodity is green based on unreliable, ineffective endorsements or eco-labels such as the RSPO, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or FairTrade coffee and cocoa. Greenwashing: Fake Labels and fake certifications Ecolabels are designed to reassure consumers that…

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Greenwashing Tactic #5: Irrelevance and Deflection

Claiming a brand, commodity or industry is green based on irrelevant information Jump to section Greenwashing: Irrelevant Topics Greenwashing: Colonial Racism Research: Palm oil greenwashing and its link to climate denialism Reality: RSPO Certification Doesn’t Stop Deforestation, Human Rights Abuses…

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Greenwashing Tactic #6: The Lesser of Two Evils

Claiming that a brand, commodity or industry is greener than others in the same category, in order to excuse ecocide, deforestation, human rights and animal rights abuses. Jump to section Greenwashing: Lesser of Two Evils: Palm Oil Uses Less Land…

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Greenwashing Tactic #7: Lying

Telling outright lies over and over again to consumers until they are believed as truth Jump to section Greenwashing: Endangered species Reality: Endangered species Greenwashing: Human rights, land-grabbing and livelihoods for workers Reality: Human rights, land-grabbing and livelihoods for workers…

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Greenwashing Tactic #8: Design & Words

Using design principles and greenwashing language in order to trigger emotional and unconscious responses in consumers Jump to section Greenwashing: Design Principles Greenwashing Design Example: Palm Done Right Greenwashing Design Example: WWF Palm Oil Scorecard 2021 Greenwashing with Words: Vegan…

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Published by Palm Oil Detectives

Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, scientists, conservationists, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail and industrial agriculture sectors and through strong campaigning we can stop them cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and stand up for the animals with your supermarket choices

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