In the lead-up to the 2024 Indonesian elections, Meedan fact-checking partners Mafindo, Tempo and Liputan 6 — and a network of more than 100 media organizations — exchanged information with local audiences to debunk misinformation on WhatsApp as voters headed to the polls. 

Data from the project, powered by Meedan’s Check and the CekFacta coalition of fact-checkers, shines a light on the viral trends and narratives encountered throughout the campaign and during the election period. 

Between Oct. 1, 2023, and Feb. 21, 2024, coalition WhatsApp tiplines saw a variety of themes, including health, religion, civic issues, politics and banking. In this post, we focus on election-specific questions and messages. We saw a total of 14,809 submissions on all four tiplines between October 2023 and February 2024. 

Meedan uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to group together similar audience questions and claims and to uncover trending social media narratives. Here are some of the highlights and trends we observed by grouping the content and analyzing some of the biggest clusters of claims:

  1. The most asked question related to government spending for improving trade and entrepreneurship among the youth.

Minister of Trade Zulkifli Hasan’s announcement about providing IDR 40 million as capital to set up stalls, for promoting trade and entrepreneurship among youngsters, was of great interest. For a country with over 50% of its population between the ages of 18 and 39, the attention paid to this announcement seemed telling. Fact-checkers received over 60 queries on this topic across their tiplines. 

  1. Fears of surveillance and messages cautioning people to be careful with what they post online were widely circulated.

Several WhatsApp forwards claimed that cellphone activities were being monitored under the regime of President Joko Widodo. These messages called for vigilance and cautioned people against posting or commenting online on politics and government policies. Such actions, it was said, could result in arrest without a warrant.

  1. A perceived threat of Chinese annexation spurred concerns about the future of Indonesia.

Some messages claimed that voting for the incumbent government would result in Chinese control in Indonesia. By allowing Chinese settlement in Indonesia’s future capital, “I.K.N.” (Nusantara), and through several other actions favoring the migrant Chinese population, messages claimed that corrupt parties would allow Chinese colonialism in Indonesia, leading to the marginalization of citizens. 

  1. Calls were shared to boycott parties supporting Israel in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

There were also messages linked to international issues that called for boycotting certain parties. In particular, these communications targeted the United Indonesia Party, whose leader supported Israel in the Israel-Hamas conflict. 

  1. Disappointment was expressed with the incumbent president for allegations of corruption, favoring China and electoral fraud.

Several messages also pointed to policy failures and allegations of corruption against President Joko Widodo and his government. Some called for a trial to remove the president. Others pointed to the poor image of him at COP28 and also alleged that he had been receiving bribes from “Communist China” for the past 20 years to commit election fraud in the country.

Tiplines are helpful in capturing viral narratives, but as Cekfakta coalition coordinator Adi Marsiela explains:

“[The process] may also miss some narratives. For instance, issues concerning hate speech against Rohingya refugees were also … observed during this election period but did not feature in the tipline submissions from audiences.” 

In 2024, Meedan is working with coalitions in India, Mongolia, the United States and many other countries to support election information and integrity during this landmark election year. 

For more information, or to get in touch with Meedan’s program team, email us at elections@meedan.com.

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Footnotes

  1. Online conversations are heavily influenced by news coverage, like the 2022 Supreme Court decision on abortion. The relationship is less clear between big breaking news and specific increases in online misinformation.
  2. The tweets analyzed were a random sample qualitatively coded as “misinformation” or “not misinformation” by two qualitative coders trained in public health and internet studies.
  3. This method used Twitter’s historical search API
  4. The peak was a significant outlier compared to days before it using Grubbs' test for outliers for Chemical Abortion (p<0.2 for the decision; p<0.003 for the leak) and Herbal Abortion (p<0.001 for the decision and leak).
  5. All our searches were case insensitive and could match substrings; so, “revers” matches “reverse”, “reversal”, etc.

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Published on
March 26, 2024