The National Police arrested a man suspected of spreading a hoax about the presence of cops from China being among the Brimob (Mobile Police Brigade) officers securing the post-election protests this week.
The suspect, identified by his initials SDA, was arrested in Bekasi regency yesterday evening.
“He has committed acts of spreading information that caused individual and collective hatred based on race, religion, and ethnic groups (SARA). He also deliberately spread the hoax on social media,” Cyber Crimes Unit Director Brigadier General Rachmad Wibowo said in a press conference today, as quoted by Kumparan.
Based on the information collected by the cyber patrols, SDA initially spread the false information through four Whatsapp groups until the hoax, which accused some Brimob officers of being from China because of their sipit (narrow-eyed) features, became viral ahead of the riots.
“[SDA spread the hoax] based on a screen capture and photo by someone who took a selfie at the scene of the protests. The selfie was uploaded with the story that the three police officers behind him came from another country,” Rachmad continued.
SDA has been charged with multiple violations of the Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE), Eradication of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination, as well as Articles 14 and 15 from Indonesia’s Criminal Law Regulation issued in 1946 about spreading fake news.
If convicted, he could face up to six years in prison from the accumulated charges, as well as other fines.
Police previously responded to the secret Chinese police hoax by saying all members of the National Police are indeed Indonesian citizens. One cop in the now-viral picture has been identified as a police officer from the North Sulawesi capital of Manado. If one were to live in an isolated and racially homogenous environment, one might be oblivious to the fact that many Manadoans have these so-called sipit eyes and thus believe the hoax.
This hoax, as well as others that circulated in the lead up to and during the post-election protests, are what the government says caused them to temporarily block certain features across social media platforms to contain the spread of misinformation. As of today, social media use is still severely hampered by government intervention in Indonesia.