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Understanding the Rise of the Hoax Phenomenon

Hoax or Fake News has become more popular lately, with the development of social media and group messaging groups, the spread of hoaxes has become easier, and everyone has the potential to become a forwarder.

Here I am trying to analyze this phenomenon from the motivational aspect of hoax newsmakers, the characteristics of hoaxes, why people are so easily fooled, and participate in spreading hoaxes and tips to avoid becoming a hoaxer.

The Motivation for Hoax / Fake News Makers

The motives of hoax news makers certainly vary, including:

  • Just for fun, enjoying or getting certain satisfaction if the hoax was successfully spread and trusted by many people,
  • Fraud, broadcasting false news to deceive potential victims.
  • Business competition, spreading false information to the detriment of business opponents.
  • Political and/or ideological, spreading hoaxes for political or ideological benefits of certain groups.
  • Commercial motives, to obtain certain benefits from spreading false information.


Feature of Hoax

  • Unclear sources, usually not traceable by the original author. It is unclear the time and or place (old news or hoaxes can be repeatedly circulated)
  • To more convincing, it is usually inserted in complicated terms so that it looks scientific.Sometimes taking the names of famous figures or certain institutions, for example, “according to Professor X …”, or “based on research from University Y …” (the problem is whether the article really was written by Professor X or University Y is not too important, many are lazy to check, the important thing is to look cool and convincing first, he2x)
  • To attract the reader’s interest, the headline and contents of the news are usually (not always) sensational, overly controversial, for example: “wow…”, “spectacular ….”, “finally revealed ….”, “terrible ….”, ” sensational …. ” and or other similar words …
  • The contents of the article are illogical, too good to be true, or vice versa too bad to be true.
  • Some use the science of logic, facts that are following the theory or argument to be built, deliberately made to look appropriate so that it looks right.
  • There is also a new type of hoax in the form of fake news, where the source of the article is from the untrusted website, which was deliberately created to generate fake news.
  • Sometimes it is accompanied by a URL from a popular website, even when clicked on it does not connect the information submitted and the news content on the website.
  • Sometimes accompanied by photos, some have been engineered, or some are original photos, but it is not relevant to the information conveyed.
  • Sometimes it is accompanied by appeals to spread it, for example, “spread this message to 10 people you care about …”, “don’t stop at you, spread this message ….”, or “however busy you are, take the time to share this message to others. “


Why Many People Easily “Deceived” and Also Spread the Hoax

What is interesting is looking at the behavior of some people, who tend to easily believe and participate in spreading the hoax.

Here is a little analysis of some of the causes:

  • Humans tend to like to share information, news that feels good, important and or useful quickly tends to be shared directly to social groups
  • Want to be praised or regarded as “the first to know” or get a nickname such as “The King of Information” (although sometimes it is ridiculous because it is often proven to share hoax information, instead it seems to be “stupid.” he2x)
  • Lacking literacy, some people have difficulty analyzing and differentiating whether a piece of information is true or not.
  • Lazy or not accustomed to checking & re-checking information.
  • Too innocent and/or easy to believe in new information received.
  • Humans tend to look for “justification” for their beliefs, this encourages people to tend to easily believe. Less critical of information that is fit with the values ​​he/she believes, and easily participate in spreading the news that is pro to certain religious, in accordance with what he/she believes, and /or strengthen the political groups that he/she supports.
  • Religious motivation. Feel obliged to participate in conveying spiritual messages. Actually, this is good intentions. Still, sometimes there are those who too excited, so he/she forgets (or feels no need) to check the validity of the news content that he/she spread.
  • Humans tend to be alert and look for security. Therefore information such as dangerous drugs, toxic foods, or the like is shared immediately. Although sometimes realizing that the information may be wrong, the thought that “who knows is right” and if it is not accurate “what wrong to be vigilant “helped fertilize the practice of spreading hoaxes.
  • Associations of certain social groups – people tend to be part of a social group, so in order to feel accepted and considered as part of a social group, people tend to think that they must be involved in the group activities, including by sharing information relevant to the value of the group.
  • Some people like a kind of “conspiracy theories,” it’s fun to imagine the world like in movies, there’s always a group of people out there who conspire to do evil. although often events in this world just happen, without a scenario from anyone, not as exciting as in the movies you know, he2x)


Don’t Become a Hoax Spreader

Become a hoax spreader is certainly not good. It could even cause legal consequences (as stipulated in the Law), or at least, if a lot of information that you share then proven hoaxes, it will undoubtedly reduce your credibility, image, and social reputation.

Here are some tips so that we avoid being Hoax spreaders:

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  • Get to know the features of hoax (among others, as mentioned above)
  • Do not be too innocent. Instill a cautious attitude, rather than having the basic assumption “all the information I received is true until then proven wrong.” It is better to hold the principle to the contrary “all the information I received is wrong until then proven correct,” he2x
  • Check & Recheck (or Tabayyun) make it a habit to always check and investigate the truth of information. Search on the internet, if the information is valid and important, it is almost impossible not to be reported by trusted sites.
  • Develop a critical attitude, first analyze the information received before deciding to participate in disseminating, is that information correct? If it is, is the information useful?
  • Think Before You Share! If the information you receive is difficult to verify and you doubt the truth, it is better not to be disseminated. Throw away the principle of “what is important is to spread out first, who knows is true,” or “checking the validity of the news by spreading it, so if it is a hoax, someone will certainly comment.”
  • Also, consider the sensitivity of the information content. Whether it included in the criteria of “hate speech,” or whether there will be parties who are offended or hurt by the news.

In closing, regarding our caution in digesting information, let us consider the following verse in the Holy Qur’an again:

“O you who believe, if you come to the wicked who bring a message, then examine it carefully, so that you do not inflict a disaster upon a people without knowing the circumstances that cause you to regret your actions” (QS. Al-Hujurat: 6 )

This post is also available in: Indonesian

Lahir di Palembang pada bulan November 1981, saya menyelesaikan S1 di Jurusan Teknik Kimia Universitas Sriwijaya, dan S2 Master of Business Administration (MBA) di Sekolah Bisnis Management Institut Teknologi Bandung (SBM-ITB). Bekerja di salah satu BUMN dan tinggal di daerah Jakarta Selatan.


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