Indonesia’s new cyber agency chief apologizes for #HoaxMembangun gaffe, says he was testing public reaction

Indonesia’s newly appointed Cyber Body and National Encryption Agency (BSSN) chief Djoko Setiado didn’t exactly have the best first day at work yesterday, telling reporters following his inauguration by President Joko Widodo that he would instruct the agency to eradicate hoax news stories but allow “positive” ones.

His strange statement was instantly ridiculed by many, with the hashtag #HoaxMembangun (productive hoaxes) becoming the top trending topic on Twitter yesterday afternoon, a status it still held this morning this morning. We especially like this tweet comparing #HoaxMembangun to an infamous post-truth phrase coined by a certain U.S. counselor to the president.

Aside from the online ridicule, politicians have also jumped on their criticism of Djoko, with one member of parliament correctly pointing out that spreading fake news or hoaxes online is a violation of the country’s Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE), no matter the intended merit.

In light of all the criticism, one would think Djoko would offer a sincere apology so we can get on with our lives. Instead, in his first clarification to Kompas, he defended the existence of “positive” hoaxes.

“If (the hoax is intended to) bring down the government, is inappropriate, that’s what we forbid and what we’ll silence. If the hoax is positive, to criticize, I think that’s fine,” Djoko said, as quoted by Kompas yesterday.

So we should criticize the government based on falsehoods? Doesn’t that defeat the very essence of criticism?

In any case, Djoko later conceded his position on hoaxes and offered a public apology, albeit one that with an evasive tone.

“It was just a style, I want to know how perceptive people were to my statement. It turns out they were extraordinarily perceptive, so I’m proud. But the public reaction (to the statement) was too serious,” he said.

“The lesson is, it was a socialization to the public that there was an appointment of a BSSN chief. If I had gone too far, I, as a human being, must apologize.”

So, did we all pass the test, or did Djoko’s apology fail miserably?

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