Fake news a concern as Indonesians lap up social media

Indonesia’s daily number of Facebook users currently stands at around 65 million. (Photo: Chandni Vatvani)

JAKARTA: Whether they are tweeting or posting, Indonesians love social media.

According to Instagram, the country is its largest market in the Asia Pacific. Twitter too, says Indonesians are among its top five users worldwide, and Facebook – the social media favourite of Indonesians – says the country is home to its fourth-largest user base.

According to Facebook, which owns Instagram, Indonesians also tops the global list when it comes to posting Instagram Stories, a feature allowing users to post photo or video status updates that can only be viewed within 24 hours. Indonesians in fact, post Instagram Stories twice as much as the global average.

TV personality Asyifa Latief first posted on Instagram in 2012. Four years, and more than 400 posts later, the 29-year old public figure and entrepreneur has amassed more than one hundred thousand followers.

This pales in comparison to Indonesia’s most followed celebrity on Instagram, singer, Ayu Tingting, whose has amassed nearly 22 million followers. But in a digital world where popularity is currency, Asyifa likens her followers to “treasure”.

“They are like real-time feedback each time I post something,” she said. “Every time I post something, be it funny or serious stuff, or on social causes I campaign for, they speak to me – they try to convince me that they’re there.”

Asyifa also explained that they are not only there to comment on the highs of her life.

“We’re here to talk to you, to collaborate with you or like, to give you feedback whether or not it’s good or bad,” she said of her followers.


Asyifa is one of Instagram’s 45 million monthly active users in Indonesia – a figure which has more than doubled from a year ago, while Facebook says there are some 115 million users in Indonesia per month.

“According to the surveys that we have conducted, it’s pretty consistent,” said Hellen Katherina, Executive Director, Media at The Nielsen Company Indonesia.  “Those who are going online, interacting on social media is the top activity – because Indonesians like to chat.”

She added: “We love to chat; outside the big cities, you’ll still see people gathering around coffee shops or street stalls. So it’s just a matter of moving the offline chats into the online space.”

A Nielsen Consumer Media View survey conducted in several key Indonesian cities showed Internet penetration stands at 44 per cent, up from 26 per cent five years ago, indicating that Indonesians are increasingly accessing content via digital media.

A Nielsen Cross-Platform report also showed that 94 per cent of respondents preferred using smartphones to access the Internet. And as they become increasingly more affordable, together with their mobility, smartphones are often used to access the Internet all day.


But as online accessibility continues to grow, social media has also been plagued by an onslaught of fake news and negative content.

Authorities recently lifted a ban on encrypted-messaging app Telegram, after blocking it in July over concerns it was being used to spread radical and terrorist propaganda.

Telegram has agreed to cooperate with Indonesia on a set of measures to clamp down on such material, and they are not the only ones.

Indonesia’s Minister of Communications and Information, Rudiantara, recently met with representatives from Twitter, Facebook and Google to discuss the issue, so that the companies can all work together with the government and stem the spread of negative content.

“This is not the regime of censorship or something like that but we really have to protect Indonesia,” Rudiantara told journalists at a press conference.  “Particularly in addressing the content with radicalism, terrorism, drugs or something like that – that will become the priority for us.”

It is not just the government which is ramping up efforts to regulate the digital space. The Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s most influential Islamic authority, issued an edict in June forbidding Muslims from spreading hate speech, fake news, pornographic material and racial slurs on social media.

Earlier this year, the Communications Ministry also blocked 11 websites, mostly for spreading hate speech and fake news.

It is estimated that more than 130 million out of 255 million Indonesians now use the Internet. As more users come on board, authorities are hoping that their attempts to make the digital space a safe one will be fruitful.