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Jakarta Post

The anonymous denizens of the Indonesian '€˜twitterverse'€™

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Tue, May 7, 2013   /  11:35 am
The anonymous denizens of the Indonesian '€˜twitterverse'€™

Oscar Wilde once said '€œman is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth.'€ Given the discreet nature of online social media, many users opt to wear masks to broadcast the truth, or some part of it.

Indonesians started to realize the power of social media in acquiring behind-the-scenes information on the country'€™s political scene when an account by the name of @Benny_Israel emerged in 2010.

The account gained notoriety when it published stories about bribes within the National Police, cliques and conspiracies among law enforcers, within the House of Representatives and the State Palace. Within just 24 hours, the account garnered more than 30,000 followers.

Although the truth behind @Benny_Israel'€™s tweets remained questionable, most Indonesian Twitter users, during that time, took everything that they reported as the truth. Numerous mainstream media, both online and offline, even quoted some of its tweets for news sources.

@Benny_Israel, however, was not the first pioneer of the trend that has brought forth so many anonymous public intelligence accounts within the Indonesian twitterverse in recent years. Based on The Jakarta Post'€™s findings, the first anonymous account that liked to tweet about highly classified information was @Binalia.

The @Binalia account used a photo of a beautiful woman as its profile, a method then copied by numerous anonymous accounts. It emerged during the heat of the Cicak-Buaya (Gecko-Crocodile) battle, which involved the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) as the gecko, and the former National Police chief detective Susno Duadji, now a fugitive, as the crocodile.

@Binalia often tweeted about the police'€™s role and alleged conspiracy behind the efforts to weaken the KPK, even touching on aspects of the personal life of then National Police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri. This account, however, did not gain as much notoriety as that of @Benny_Israel because it failed to tweet on a regular basis.

@Binalia also changed usernames several times. It used the username @Arma1da for several months before finally changing into @talia__. The owner often published public officials'€™ curriculum vitaes and track records, usually before '€œfit-and-proper'€ tests for official positions at state institutions.

One of @Binalia'€™s administrators, who insisted on remaining anonymous, told the Post that the account was created because its owners had become fed up with watching the public being duped by politicians and officials through the mainstream media.


'€œOur society loves to speculate on any information [so]anonymous accounts will continue to grow.'€

'€œWhen we tweeted about the dirty laundry of the police, we assumed that most of the public were aware of it. To our surprise, only a few people were aware of the severe corruption within the police. So, we decided to go further and publish more and more information,'€ the administrator, who once worked at the now-defunct President'€™s Anti-Mafia Task Force, said.

After @Binalia and @Benny_Israel, more public intelligence accounts emerged, all with anonymous and fake identities. A few prominent ones include @TrioMacan2000, @BangZul_PKI and @LawanMafia.

For a while, the public enjoyed the information provided by these accounts until a few of them showed a tendency to become online spin doctors for certain politicians.

For example, during the Jakarta governor'€™s race in 2012, the @TrioMacan2000 account blatantly voiced support for the incumbent candidate Fauzi '€œFoke'€ Bowo by continuously publishing negative tweets on Joko Widodo, Foke'€™s strongest challenger and subsequent winner of the election.

The public speculated that @TrioMacan2000'€™s owner might have used the account for personal benefit, because just weeks before the race, it had frequently lambasted Foke for his failure to improve Jakarta'€™s overall condition.

Some accounts also use political figures'€™ profiles to make their tweets look more convincing. The account of
@Mnazar78 masked itself as Muhammad Nazarudin, the former Democratic Party legislator currently jailed for graft, and account @SamadAbraham even masked itself as a twitter profile belonging to KPK chairman Abraham Samad.

Both Nazarudin and Samad have denied having twitter accounts but for some reason, the follower numbers of these accounts have grown, showing the enthusiasm of Indonesians for inside information even when they know the account identities are fake.

The trend of using anonymous and fake profiles to spread highly classified information and rumors may also have been boosted by the fact that it is so difficult to take legal action against the owners of these accounts.

For example, whoever is behind the @TrioMacan2000 account remains untouchable by the police despite of the fact that Deputy Attorney General for Supervision Marwan Effendy reported the account months ago for defamation.

University of Gadjah Mada political analyst Ari Sujito also predicted that the trend of public intelligence accounts using anonymous accounts would not end in the near future, mainly due to the social nature of the public in Indonesia.

'€œOur society loves to speculate on any information and therefore, the number of anonymous accounts and their activities will continue to grow,'€ Ari said.

Unlike @Wikileaks and the infamous international hacker group, Anonymious, Indonesian public intelligence accounts are very rarely able to provide concrete documentation to back up their claims.

'€œWhat the public needs to do now is to become more critical. The public needs to learn to verify each piece of information, especially from anonymous sources,'€ Ari added.

'€” JP/Hans David Tampubolon



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