Indonesia deploys ‘peace envoys’ to combat online extremism
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Indonesia deploys ‘peace envoys’ to combat online extremism

THE Indonesian government has deployed internet “peace envoys” in a bid to tackle extremist ideologies and fake news.

A report by the Australian Associated Press (AAP) published on the SBS, said the country’s National Agency for Combating Terrorism (BNPT) has trained and deployed a team of 60 bloggers and IT experts to counter pervasive terrorist chatter, extreme views, conspiracy theories, and hoax news.

During the launch of the programme late last month, BNPT’s deputy for prevention, protection and de-radicalisation Abdul Rahman Kadir, said the effort involved the creation of five new websites promoting tolerance.

“The most troubling thing now is the virtual world. We all know the problems in cyberspace, how incessant (the information) is in the virtual world … how it makes things happen, which should not happen,” he said, as quoted by the AAP.

The effectiveness of the sites, however, remains to be seen as they have only received some 200 visits by mid-August.

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The deployment of the “peace envoys” came amid the government’s crackdown on hardline Islamist groups who were said to be propagating extremism in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Last month, the government banned the use of instant messaging service Telegram, saying it was commonly used by radicals and extremists to spread their views. The government later rescinded the ban.

Savic Ali, the director of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the long-running for the website of one of Indonesia’s largest moderate Islamic organisations, said radical Islamic websites are outnumbering those that carried more acceptable views.

“There are many reasons why radical websites dominate our online world. They started earlier than us and they are more active than us,” he said, as quoted by the AAP.

He said the radical websites often appeal for an Islamic political system in the largely secular nation. They also call for better treatment for Muslims who were regarded as the underclass.

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“(They) create a burden, fortress, a wall between people based on religion. This is very bad for us in the 20th century,” he said.

“If we can promote promoting three values (moderation, proportionality and tolerance), this will be very positive to Indonesia.”

To address the problem,  Savic said the NU would be receiving training from Facebook representatives on using the social networking site to its advantage.

A researcher of Indonesian media from the Australian National University, Dr Ross Tapsell, said the government should place more emphasis on building more credible media instead of creating content and using anti-hoax units.

“Credibility in mainstream media has declined due to the partisan nature of media ownership and the decline in quality journalism more generally … As quality journalism declines, concurrently poor disinformation rises,” he said.

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