Felicia Li-Gaillard
Mar 18, 2019

Protecting your brand from fake news during the Indonesia elections

Integral Ad Science's Felicia Li-Gaillard explains what brands should look out for during the election period, and how to protect their reputations.

Indonesian president Joko Widodo taking a selfie with fans. He has already been the subject of fake news articles ahead of the election. (Source: Muhammad AF/ AFP)
Indonesian president Joko Widodo taking a selfie with fans. He has already been the subject of fake news articles ahead of the election. (Source: Muhammad AF/ AFP)

General elections will be held in Indonesia on 17 April 2019. For the first time in Indonesian history, the president, vice president, and members of the People's Consultative Assembly, will be elected on the same day by over 190 million eligible voters exercising their rights. Sixteen parties will be participating in the elections nationally; four will be participating for the first time. It’ll be a tough fight for the seats and an opportunity to garner support by all means possible—including but not limited to fake news and inflammatory content.

Leading up to the election, Indonesia’s communications ministry stepped up to fight against fake news in response to a wave of misinformation campaigns across the country. The ministry established weekly briefings to discredit fake news and educate the public about the spread of disinformation in the world’s third-largest democracy.

Companies are rightly concerned about being associated with factually incorrect or misleading content. Recent fake news that was highlighted in Indonesia involved three Indonesian housewives who have now been arrested, because of their online video that claimed President Joko Widodo would ban prayer and make gay marriage legal in the Muslim-majority country if re-elected. Such baseless news contributes to conflict and anxiety in society.

Indonesia’s social-media landscape

According to Jakartapost News, Indonesia has the fourth-highest number of Facebook users in the world. As of January 2019, there were 130 million accounts on the social network, or 6 percent of total global users, making Indonesia the Southeast Asian country with the most Facebook users.

Analysts have expressed concern about the role fake news might play in the upcoming election, as well as the spread of hate speech. Before the campaign period started, analysts predicted that hoaxes and fake news would become rampart, primarily spreading through social media and WhatsApp, with one observer noting that the government was limited in its impact in handling the fake news as it may be framed as favouring the incumbent in the election.

Facebook recently announced its Political Advertising Rules are coming to more countries in 2019 as a number of elections are being held across the globe. It is banning foreign-funded ads ahead of the Indonesian election to mitigate concerns that the platform is used to manipulate voting behaviour. Social media companies are working actively with third party verification partners such as Integral Ad Science to tackle these pressing issues.

How brands should navigate media during the election

1) Brands must be aware of fraud during elections

The single biggest source of fraud is automated bots attempting to impersonate human browsers and mimic human behaviour online. We normally see this type of activity increase around events for which marketers have use-it-or-lose-it budgets, and we rightly anticipated an uptick in bot-related fraud going into the 2018 midterms in the US. Political advertisers have a limited period in which to spend and fraudsters who operate bots saw that as an opportunity. This kind of fraud is also difficult to prosecute so there’s low risk for fraudsters with the potential for a high reward.

2) Be cognisant of the political players in digital advertising

Being aware of how the system works. It takes a team of experts to strategise, develop and execute a political campaign and the political players have key roles to play in different life cycles of the campaign.

  • Consultant & strategists: although the most important role of political consultants is arguably the development and production of mass media (largely television and direct mail), they also advise campaigns on many other activities, ranging from opposition research and voter polling, to field strategy and get out the vote efforts.
  • Political action committee (PAC): a popular term for a political committee organized for the purpose of raising and spending money to elect and defeat candidates.
  • Data management platform (DMP): is a technology platform used for collecting and managing data, mainly for digital marketing purposes.
  • Demand side platforms (DSPs): are advertiser campaign management products that provide advertisers features for buying ad placements online in real time.
  • Content or platform owners: make the decisions that impact the timing and depth of the content that needs to be produced.

3) Brands in Indonesia must deep dive into what constitutes 'risky content'

Benchmarks from the H1 2018 IAS Media Quality Report for Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore showed that brands in Indonesia should stay alert towards “offensive language and controversial content”. According to the report, Indonesia had the highest overall brand risk, at 78% across programmatic and publisher direct, more than three times riskier than Singapore, which came in second.

Steps brands can take to protect themselves

  • Define better: “Risk” means different things to different brands – and may change on a campaign-by-campaign basis. Defining and customizing your risk thresholds is key.
  • Know your partners: Agencies are very familiar with their brand safety partners and their capabilities, and brands should be as well. More knowledge will give you more peace of mind.
  • Strong cooperation: Connect your publishers with your brand safety partner before the campaign launches, to ensure ongoing cooperative optimizations.
  • Ad fraud: To really protect your brand – and your advertising spend – you must avoid fraudulent traffic. Make sure you’re blocking for both brand safety and ad fraud.
  • Explore more options: Don’t rely on just one or two methods to protect your brand. Use a combination of blacklists, keywords, and page-level analysis for a comprehensive solution.
  • Constantly work at it: Make sure your blacklist, keyword list, and parameters are up to date – and review them on a regular basis. As new celebrity scandals, political scandals, international crises, and other concerns pop up, you’ll likely want to add keywords to your list.
  • Multi-language solutions: Global brands need global protection. When assessing brand safety partners, make sure their solutions have multi-language capabilities – and can handle unique challenges that arise in multi-language keywords.

Felicia Li-Gaillard is APAC Marketing Director at Integral Ad Science.

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