Fact-checkers are teaching Indonesian housewives how to stop misinformation

December 12, 2019
Category: Fact-Checking,IFCN

Media literacy programs should be offered where misinformation flourishes. That’s why fact-checkers from Mafindo, in Indonesia, developed a verification workshop focused on women who stay at home. Many of them have been taken to court — and to jail — for spreading falsehoods.

Since August, Mafindo’s team has given media literacy workshops in 17 cities. They have been to Jakarta, East Java and Borneo to teach about 1,280 housewives how to fact-check. Forwarding false news seems to be a big problem in this group.

In October 2018, for example, police forces in East Java arrested a 25-year-old woman who had spread that an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale would take place in Jakarta. On Feb. 25, three women were also arrested over an online video that claimed President Joko Widodo would ban prayer and make gay marriage legal in the Muslim majority country if re-elected. The trio was taken to court and sentenced to a few months in prison.

“They did that because their sense of protecting their family is very high. They spread hoaxes to protect the environment,” said Santi Indra Astuti, from Mafindo, during one of the media literacy panels offered at the Trusted Media Summit in Singapore this week. (The event was organized by the International Fact-Checking Network, First Draft and Google News Initiative.)

One of the ways Mafindo found to involve these women in the fight against misinformation was creating an online soap opera.

“We decided to produce a web series about an anti-hoax family to reach them, to teach them the importance of fact-checking,” Astuti said.

Keluarga Anti Hoax has been available on YouTube since August and, for now, has five episodes of 10 minutes each. In the webseries trailer, the family gathers around a dining table and decides they must debunk a claim about “catfish causing cancer.” The first episode had almost 10,000 views on YouTube at publication time.

“In Mafindo we do a monthly mapping of the hoaxes we debunk. Political content is usually No. 1, with 70% of what we see. Religious hoaxes appear in second place, with 15%-20%. Religious hoaxes, however, are highly politicized. So we are trying very hard to teach critical thinking,” Astuti said.

Mafindo’s representative also emphasized that one-third of Indonesia isn’t connected to the internet: about 92 million people. So teaching verification skills needs to be done offline.

“Media literacy cannot be digital-only. This is why we have trained 40 volunteers in 17 cities and have settled with them an open collaboration process. From September to November, they carried out four workshops in each city, 68 workshops in total,” said Astuti.

Mafindo knows it is hard to measure the impact of media literacy efforts. Specialists around the world say programs like the one developed in Indonesia actually show a short time increase in people’s awareness about dis/misinformation. But emphasize the final measurement regarding impact should be done after many years.

While the effect of their work isn’t obvious, Astuti and her team say they will not give up.

“We just do anything we can to work with as many people as possible.”

Read the Spanish version of this article at Univision.

Cristina Tardáguila is the associate director of the International Fact-Checking Network and the founder of Agência Lupa. She can be reached at ctardaguila@poynter.org.