Cross-border Effort in Combatting Disinformation: TFC joined by MAFINDO, TASAT for Empowering Local Indonesian Community

Cross-border Effort in Combatting Disinformation: TFC joined by MAFINDO, TASAT for Empowering Local Indonesian Community

There are currently more than 250,000 Indonesians living in Taiwan. They have easily fallen prey to dis- and misinformation due to language barriers and lack of access to information. 

In light of this concern, the Taiwan FactCheck Center (TFC), the TransAsia Sister Association, Taiwan, and MAFINDO, a fact-checking group based in Indonesia, have launched a series of activities to strengthen media literacy and promote fact-checking in the Indonesian community in Taiwan to combat disinformation.

Image: The partners of the collaborative projects, the Taiwan FactCheck Center, the TransAsia Sister Association, Taiwan, and MAFINDO, met up virtually on February 7. 

Fact-checkers and support group with local knowledge join efforts

The TFC and MAFINDO are both independent fact-checking organizations certified by the International Fact-checking Network. MAFINDO was established in 2015 in an online grassroots movement, aiming to fight disinformation by combining civic power and the expertise of professional fact-checking reporters and having been actively creating training courses and tools to promote media literacy. 

The TransAsia Sister Association, Taiwan (TASAT) is a group established by immigrants from Southeast Asia focusing on issues concerning immigration and migrant workers. This collaborative project is sponsored by the grant of the Google News Initiative APAC, headquartered in Singapore.

The planning of the project by the TFC and MAFINDO was already underway as early as in 2019, which however was disturbed and delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 and the disease-related fact-checking load weighing on the two groups. In early 2020, MAFINDO and the TFC joined hands in fighting rumors and sharing local information from Indonesia when a caregiver of Indonesian nationality was diagnosed with COVID-19 in Taiwan.

The project, more than two years after it was initially planned, finally got launched this year.

The TFC, as project coordinator, will be working with MAFINDO to provide training courses in using fact-checking tools and debunking techniques, and in training TASAT members to be seed instructors for them to spread the knowledge to the Indonesian community in Taiwan through various activities and collaboration with other grassroots organizations. The courses will also include online activities with MAFINDO, which is well-experienced in teaching and can provide training to immigrants and migrant workers in Indonesian, making the content more accessible.

TASAT is also planning to air several episodes in Indonesian on its Podcast channel to discuss disinformation and debunking, circling them on the social media platforms used by Indonesian immigrants and migrant workers. There are about 30 TASAT members who originally came from Indonesia.

Both local communities and their families back home susceptible to disinformation

Hsia Hsiao-chuan, a social work professor at National Chengchi University and one of the TASAT founding members, said the three groups of Indonesians in Taiwan - immigrants as spouses of Taiwanese citizens, migrant workers, and students - face different kinds of challenges concerning disinformation in Taiwan. 

Migrant workers, for example, are more susceptible to incorrect information about work, the consequences of which are often shown in the news of their being exploited by their employers or brokers; Indonesian spouses, on the other hand, can be hurt by disinformation about residency. 

According to Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Education, there are more than 210,000 Indonesian migrant workers, 31,065 Indonesian spouses, and more than 17,000 Indonesian students in Taiwan as of the end of 2021.

MAFINDO founder and president Septiaji Eko Nugroho said this project will be the first time for MAFINDO to promote media literacy and fact-checking among overseas Indonesians. Although the Indonesian communities are large, their digital resources and skills are relatively weak, he said, raising the hurdle for MAFINDO to reach them. 

Septiaji Eko Nugroho added that the Indonesian communities have not been the only victims of disinformation, as their family elders are often duped by scammers into paying fees “for the security” of their family members working overseas. 

“We have therefore also been developing materials for the elders, as we hope we can empower not only the migrant workers but also their families,” he stressed. 

An expanding project: building a database

“There are three goals for this collaborative effort: empowering the Indonesian community in Taiwan by media literacy training, establishing information conduits between the community and the Indonesian fact-checker, and extending the reach with the cooperation of the three organizations with different specializations,” said TFC Editor-in-chief Summer Chen. 

Chen said that TASAT, which has abundant experience in supporting immigrants and migrant workers, will be of great help in understanding their real needs and challenges in everyday life.

This year’s project is to familiarize the Indonesian community in Taiwan with fact-checking and the fact-checking groups from Indonesia, collect the kinds of disinformation that are mostly faced by the community and set up a database, and when the database is sufficiently built up, the next step will be introducing MAFINDO’s chatbox to them, Chen added.