Who Can’t Handle the Truth? Challenges and Needs in Tackling Disinformation in Southeast Asia

This event will provide an update on the current state of disinformation in Southeast Asia, based on insights of two fact-checking organizations and an independent news outlet in the region, VERA Files (Philippines), MAFINDO (Indonesia), and The Online Citizen (TOC) (Singapore). Southeast Asia is no exception when it comes to the dangers that disinformation on online platforms pose to democracy and civic spaces.

Repressive regimes in the region can use the online space to launch online operations to spread disinformation for political gain or hire third parties to do so. This happens even as supposed counter-disinformation efforts focus on legislation that enables authorities to police online content, using their own interpretations of problematic information, often without independent fact-checking. As a result, disinformation has become a weapon for political repression. Independent media agencies and sources of critical journalism also face regime harassment and accusations of spreading disinformation.

As the COVID-19 “infodemic” unfolds, its effects have gone beyond public health. The “infodemic” has been used as a pretext to silence calls for the right to freedom of expression and information. Events such as protests and elections are also subject to disinformation. There are particular concerns with the increasingly popularity of the messaging app, Telegram, and the audio-chat social media app, Clubhouse. A large number of people turned to Telegram after changes to the privacy policy in WhatsApp in early 2021. It has been found that Telegram’s functions allow for the easy spread of disinformation. Clubhouse is a new hub for people to listen and discuss issues, but does not have any fact-check mechanisms or anti-disinformation policies. Widespread use of these apps increase the risk of disinformation spreading uncontrollably. Such apps and their misuse can have a significant and alarming role in political-related activities.

In this event, VERA Files, MAFINDO, and TOC will provide insights about the current state of disinformation in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore. This includes how they fact-check information, challenges in fact-checking work, and needs to make fact-checking efforts more effective. The event will also discuss efforts by social media platforms to handle disinformation and the possibilities for disinformation on Telegram and Clubhouse in Southeast Asian countries. This event is a pre-activity for the upcoming establishment of a regional fact-checking coalition that brings together organizations from across Southeast Asia to tackle disinformation and related issues.

Speakers

Terry Xu

The Online Citizen (Singapore)

Septiaji Eko Nugroho

MAFINDO (Indonesia)

Celine Isabelle Samson

VERA Files (Philippines)

Meeko Angela Camba

VERA Files (Philippines)

Moderator

Ploy Chanprasert

Founder, DigitalReach

Date & Time

March 10, 2021
(Wednesday)

1.00 – 2.30 pm
Yangon (GMT +6.30)

1.30 – 3.00 pm
Bangkok, Jakarta, Phnom Penh, Hanoi (GMT +7)

2.30 – 4.00 pm
Singapore, Manila, Kuala Lumpur (GMT +8)

Agenda

TimesDetail
1.30 – 1.40
(10 mins)
Introduction
1.40 – 2.40
(60 mins)
Discussion
2.40 – 3.00
(20 mins)
Q&A