How does our Mobile Service Providers contribute to Hoax?

Hoax is a serious issue. It has contributed to various problem such as religious and inter-ethnic tensions and the rise of ‘populist’ politicians who quoted these unreliable sources in order to gain supports.


This post was originally written in 2015 but looking at the current trends of more and more hoax spread in social media, this post is still relevant if not increasingly relevant today.

Hoax is a serious issue. It has contributed to various problem such as religious and inter-ethnic tensions and the rise of ‘populist’ politicians who quoted these unreliable sources in order to gain supports. The rise of hoax or the lesser evil, sensational headlines had been attributed to various factors: lack of education in critical thinking, cognitive biases, religious dogmas that plays on emotions, advertisers in digital media, Facebook algorithm, lack of journalism training and even the hoax business (business model of getting tons of ‘likes’ on Facebook and then selling the account to online shops). However, I would like to continue the blame-game to one of the least expected actor: Internet Service Provider (ISP) or Mobile Service Provider (MSP)

Inspired by a Facebook comment section and a discussion with a friend, I concluded that one of the most important yet least exposed actor to blame is our MSP. This sounds trivial but it has indeed become the root causes of these problems, especially in Indonesia. Hoax is rooted on sensational journalism which uses sensational headlines. Most of these journalism, as opposed to popular belief that they deliberately misinformed the public by using false fact, is actually objective. They do provide factual information based on reliable sources. The problem is the Netizens (popular term for internet users) don’t click on them and read thoroughly. When sensational headlines and Netizens reluctance to read thoroughly combined, it results into catastrophe, the rise of Hoax. Why don’t people read? Various answers were given; laziness, cognitive biases, lack of time. I argue that it’s not that people are unwilling to read, but because they can’t. Not because they are illiterate (well, if they are, they won’t be in the internet in the first place) but because they can’t afford reading.

Almost everyone uses social media on their smart phones. Internet in their smart phones is provided by Mobile Service Provider of their choice. MSP in Indonesia or even around the globe uses ‘quota’ system, in which service users buy prepaid data plan (Indonesian calls it ‘paket data’) which has limited quotas per day, week, month or even year. A Telkomsel monthly quota of 6GB approximately cost 75k rupiah. Indosat Ooredoo provided its ‘Freedom Combo’ with 27GB quota which cost 120k rupiah, significantly cheaper but as to my experience, significantly slower as well (As the post was written in 2015, that was the price at that time. Price may decrease as of now). However, most MSP provided free access to social media i.e. Indosat provided 0.facebook.com which doesn’t consume your internet quota. They give free access to social media, the platform lies, full of hoax and sensational headlines but charge you for reading it thoroughly and trying to find other sources to clarify. So, when people are faced with sensational news on Facebook, they don’t bother reading because it will cost them their internet quota, leading to them clicking ‘share now’ and spreading it to people who act similarly to them, thus creating the vicious cycle of lies.

I argue that this discriminate access to information is the root of our problem here. So, if we want to fix hoax problem, I argue that we need to expand our blame-game to MSP. Changing how their system works will significantly improve our society literacy, thus deal with the root causes of hoax.

Cover photo by: Tero Vesalainen/Pixabay

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Akyan.ID: How does our Mobile Service Providers contribute to Hoax?
How does our Mobile Service Providers contribute to Hoax?
Hoax is a serious issue. It has contributed to various problem such as religious and inter-ethnic tensions and the rise of ‘populist’ politicians who quoted these unreliable sources in order to gain supports.
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