Global Challenge: Disinformation and its Influences to the Election

ELSAM, VALENCIA – The massive spreading of disinformation is considered as influencing the result of Presidential Election in the United States. The post-truth phenomenon emerging as the impact of the disinformation spreading has influenced the public opinion to the two United States presidential candidates. Even several media argued that without the spreading of fake news, Donald Trump would not be elected.

The same thing also becomes an issue in several other countries which held election in 2018 such as Pakistan (South Asia), Nigeria (Afrika), and Brasil (Latin America), as well as the country which will be holding the election in 2019, that is, Indonesia. In one of the sessions of Internet Freedom Festival held in Valencia, Spain on 1-6 April 2019, ELSAM has an opportunity to share about the disinformation situation in Indonesia related to 2019 Election.

Talal Raza of Media Matters for Democracy from Pakistan mentioned that since 2016, the Global South countries complained about disinformation related to election in the United States.

Aleena Niaz, of Media Matters for Democracy from Pakistan stated that commencing the election, disinformation distribution got increasing. One propaganda will be countered by the others. Though there have not been any research which affirm that disinformation directly influences the election result, Aleena said that it potentially exists. Several civil society groups initiated the activities to fight against disinformation. It also includes the cooperation with social media companies, such as Facebook.

Meanwhile, in Brasil, disinformation is mostly distributed through Whatsapp. “In Brasil, Whatsapp is an important application and medium for spreading information, which becomes the dissemination method,” Dan O’Maley explained. According to him, until now there have not been any regulations which regulate disinformation, though there are several regulations used to handle disinformation.

The same thing happened in Nigeria. Before the election time, disinformation was spread through new blogs. However, now it is spread through Whatsapp. The message application has become a type of updated news portal which can easily be distributed and occasionally done by the old generation without first verifying the news facts. Besides, the digital literacy culture of young generation competing to be viral is also another problem.

Indonesia which will be holding election in April 2019 also experiences the problems of disinformation, though there has not been any advanced research about its direct impact on the election result.

The problems of disinformation in Indonesia which is still around the issues of religion, faith, tribe and race have been the major issue in the election. Both presidential candidates raise the disinformation issue in the presidential debates. Several regulations such as Penal Code and Electronic Information and Transaction Law are used to criminalized disinformation though civilians consider that the scope of disinformation which is too broad has caused the criminalization further violating freedom of expression.

Criminal Law should be the last resort in handling disinformation. Furthermore, it needs a review on the context and scope of disinformation which the law enforcers must understand so that it will prevent the criminalization against the legitimate expression.

Other than that, in Indonesia, there are several efforts involving multiple stakeholders, namely, business sectors (such as Google and Facebook), government (Ministry of Communication and Informatics), or even the state institutions (Election Supervisory Body) to report directly through the mechanism provided by the platform providers. Besides, the collaboration between civil society and business sector as to develop the fact verification site until the training to increase the digital literacy as what Mafindo and Google carried out.

In the forum, the question raised is about the essentials of public and private space especially when an information has been spread for a thousand times through messaging application, can it still be called as private space and need to be encrypted?

The effort to handle disinformation is carried out by developing the technology features used by social media and internet platform, without disrespecting right to privacy by not conducting surveillance and excessive censorship. Moreover, it needs the multi stakeholder approach to prevent the single narration production.

Internet Freedom Festival which has been going on for five years is a collective activity promoting inclusivity and diversity to promote freedom of expression and protect against digital threats. The festival is attended by digital activists, journalists, technology workers, and human rights defenders from more than 100 countries. The issues discussed are varied, starting from the academic discussion, workshop, and the introduction of self-caring to human rights workers.

Author: Lintang Setianti