The Indonesian government will brief the public on fake news each week, it was reported Thursday.
Communications Minister Rudiantara said the government wants to promote digital literacy and help Indonesians identify fake stories, with a 70-strong team monitoring the news.
“Every week we will announce hoax news,” he told CNN Indonesia, according to The Guardian newspaper. “The ministry will not just stamp a story as hoax, but we will also provide facts.” Information will also be shown on a ministry website, Stophoax.id.
Indonesians are known for their use of social media, with one of the highest rates of Facebook and Twitter use, according to The Guardian’s report. People in Southeast Asia now have access to online news, in a region that has a history of state-controlled information.
Indonesia has a fake news problem, with false stories often spread on social media that fan societal and religious divisions in a nation that includes hundreds of ethnic groups. It has the world’s largest Muslim population, is known for its tolerance, and recognizes six official religions.
Fake news influenced political events in Asia last year, including elections in Indonesia. Articles about Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja circulated ahead of a gubernatorial election in April 2017, claiming that he was part of a Chinese conspiracy to control the country, triggering violent clashes.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo and the Gerindra party leader Prabowo Subianto are nominees for the country’s general election next year, with both committing to a peaceful campaign.
Within the region, “fake news is closely linked to domestic politics and, in particular, the rise of nationalism,” Mustafa Izzuddin, a fellow at Singaporean think tank ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, told CNBC in December. Nationalist politics coupled with ethno-religious undertones boosted the circulation of fake news in Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines, he added.