How To Create A Powerful Hoax (And Why We Need To Know)

Written by: Valerian Timothy, MPP.

One year ago, we read news about the Muslim Cyber Army and Saracen. They are known for their ability to formulate strong and convincing false informations or popularly known as hoaxes or fake news. They use strong dictions, interesting logic, powerful imagery, and sometimes audio or video to bolster the arguments in their hoaxes. As a result, there are a lot of people who clicked on their links, read, and believed in their information. 

In addition to their political content, the creation of the Muslim Cyber Army and Saracen is economically motivated. This group is sustained and is able to survive because they can generate money from Google Ads on their website. There are also strong accusations that they have received funding from a certain group, even though not yet proven in court.

Nevertheless, so what can we do to avoid such fake news? 

There is no one way solution to avoid fake news because the creators evolve and use many strategies to create a “better” fake news. Therefore, to avoid them can be quite the challenge. However, we are able to learn the way they manufacture fake news and learn their tactics, making us immune and unaffected. Eventually, we can be wiser in reading information on social media and, in the end, keep our sane minds.

Manufacturing a “believable lie” requires talented writers and creativity in presenting said lies. Advertising is actually one of the many examples of creative lies. It highlights and exaggerates the features on a product and attracts the viewer to know how great the product is and eventually leads viewers to the stage of transaction. This theory is commonly known as AIDA (Attractive, Interest, Demand, and Action), the same theory that applies to manufacturing fake news. The information must attract attention, it must serve the interest of the viewers, demanding them to believe it. The last action from the viewer would be to either share, like, and/or comment on the piece of information. In short, manufacturing a hoax may mimic the AIDA theory which is commonly used in creating an advertisement. 

There are five steps in manufacturing a hoax. First, we must pick a theme. There are five types of hoaxes: Scientific, Cryptozoological, Parapsychological, Religious, and Political. Here are the examples of hoaxes from each mentioned theme:

  1. Scientific: Planet Nibiru, Flat Earth
  2. Cryptozoological:  Big Foot, Yeti, Fiji’s Mermaid, and Loch Ness
  3. Parapsychological: Alien Abduction, Flying Saucers
  4. Religious: April 23 Doomsday (numerology)
  5. Political: No Global Warming, Jokowi with DN Aidit

The second step is to craft a story. The story should seem real and look like a news piece with exact details that answer the five “W” questions (Who, What, Why, Where, and When). Moreover, using strong dictions to touch the emotional side of a person such as anger, fear, sadness, happiness, disgust, and surprise helps to gain more attention. The third step, is to add more credibility to your story like adding a photo, audio, or video file. After finished crafting a credible hoax story, the fourth step is to share on a personal blog site, such as Facebook, Instagram, etc to let the public read it. Finally, watch your hoax gain momentum. A “good” hoax story will lead to massive visitors or followers on your personal site.

I would like to close this entry with a teaser about the reason why people create hoaxes. The answer is to make money from Google Ads on their sites and sell endorsement services on social media. To make good money out of Google Ads and endorsements requires massive online visitors or followers. Otherwise, there is not enough money to make. Therefore, the hoax creators must craft a good hoax story to attract more people, serve the interest of their viewers, create a demand from the viewer to like, share, and/or comment. Each time a hoax story is liked or shared, more people will be able to read it and some of them may also believe it, thus the evil cycle is hard to stop. Therefore, by knowing the way to create a good hoax story, we can learn and be wiser when reading any news on social media, making us think that “maybe this particular piece of news is not true” and signaling to us that we must not fall into lies.

*Valerian Timothy is a researcher at INADIS and the Program Manager at Innovuz

Reflecting on the Anti-Chinese Sentiment: from Pribumi to Pribumi

It is more effective to change anti-Chinese sentiment when you are perceived as the locals,” said Azmi Abubakar - a Jakarta-born Acehnese who founded a Museum to tell stories about role of the Chinese in Indonesia.

Many people in Indonesia born before the late 1990s still remember the horrors of May 1998. Thousands of shops were looted and burnt, meanwhile university students were demonstrating at the Indonesian Parliament building, forcing President Soeharto to step down. Amidst all chaos, there was one particular ethnic group who became the victim; Chinese-Indonesians. There were reports of Chinese-owned shops becoming the looting targets, Chinese women being raped, and Chinese men burnt alive on the street. It was a horrifying time for Chinese Indonesians at the time. In the mean time, a group of activists, who included Azmi Abubakar surrounded the Serpong area in South Tangerang to capture those who were looting.

This was the beginning of Abubakar’s story; a Jakarta-born Acehnese with a Minang wife, who initiated the Museum Pustaka Peranakan Tionghoa (the Chinese-Indonesian Literature Museum) in 2012. Together with his peers, Abubakar tells stories about the positive influences of Chinese culture in Indonesia. He collected more than 30,000 books, newspaper articles, and other documents relating to the Chinese community in Indonesia. His hopes are that the Indonesian people realize how precious the Chinese culture in Indonesian history is by conserving and preserving Chinese literature in Indonesia.

The museum holds more than 5,000 documents of the late John Lie, Indonesia’s only national hero of Chinese descent. General John Lie smuggled weapons to Indonesia and Indonesian raw rubber abroad during the Indonesian National Revolution against the Dutch from 1945 to 1949. Today, his museum is the only one that preserves all of John Lie’s photographs, love letters, and correspondences with Indonesian officials. Besides John Lie’s documents, the museum also collects Malay-written Chinese documents that cover politics, sports, gastronomy, medicine, and comics that can be traced back to the 18th century.

With its rich cultural heritage, Museum Pustaka Peranakan Tionghoa first targeted non-Chinese people in order to inform them about Chinese influences in history. He argues that non-Chinese people would have suspicions towards the Chinese community unless they understand those particular influences. However, it turned out that many Chinese-Indonesians also visited the museum in hopes of grasping a better understanding of their identities through the documents. Abubakar says that they are intrigued because they want to liberate themselves from the shackles of identity crisis as Indonesian citizens.

Despite his hard work and efforts, Abubakar admits that it is considered almost too late to convey his message about positive Chinese influences In addition, this is one of the reasons why he thinks the anti-Chinese discrimination is not due to the hatred factor, but because of the people’s lack of understanding.

*Valerian Timothy is a researcher at INADIS.