The public discussion sphere underwent immense transformation when digital technology took over our life. Digital platforms have suddenly opened new space and allows everyone to have power to influence people’s opinion. This is surely a stark contrast to, say, 20 years ago when mass media still had monopoly over public opinion. Now public discussion sphere is open for all, anyone can bring anything – including hoaxes, slander and hate speech.
This is what happens these days. Hate speech dominates online conversations, spreading or become viral through social media. The most dangerous impact of hate speech is intense conflict which can lead to human right violations. One of the most notable examples is threat to freedom of religion. In the political sphere, hate speech also presents the same threat for several organizations and political party members.
Digital technology, open for everyone, is also open for exploitation by radical and terrorist groups. People can easily organize movements and recruit cadres through the internet, even to learn how to make explosives.
One of the most vulnerable groups is the youth, who have to face the flood of information in the digital age without adequate education on ideology and human rights. In a television talkshow, Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil conveyed this clearly, “We had Pancasila overdose during the New Order and were deprived [of it] since reformasi.”
The lack of Pancasila and ideology indoctrination helps explain youth’s vulnerability. Without certain values and principles, hate speech stealthily enters the mind. The youth generation is vulnerable to rift and divisions in addressing differences.
It is from our history that we can find how Sukarno built the state foundation with the principle of anti-discrimination. In one of his speeches on June 17 1954, Bung Karno remarked, “The nationality that we submit is not only a negative nationality, but also a positive nationality. A nationality that wishes to emphasize every noble and sacred feeling from inside our nation’s soul.” This speech should become the foundation inherited from generation to generation to repel any threat to diversity, tolerance, and pluralism.
To strengthen the youth and to fight against hate ideology, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) needs visionary people who do not only dwell in the past. One of Komnas HAM’s visionary programs was the Future of Indonesia during 1998-1999, initiated by the late commissioner Asmara Nababan. At that time, I was requested to be a media specialist for the program.
The program was a tremendous breakthrough from Komnas HAM at that period. It was an effort to make a road map to make Indonesia better, dignified, democratic, and upholds human rights by empowering civil society, law supremacy, and clean and good government.
The program was created under the urgency to respond to the transformation to the digital age. The existence of a massive and continuous program is highly needed to repel this hate speech epidemic. There is an urgency right now to seize back the public discussion sphere. We have to make human rights a trending topic in all public discussion spheres.
Human rights have to become a public discourse in social media reality and digital platform in general through various communication strategies that are right on target according to the actual condition. Strategic communication is highly important to make human rights popular in digital life, for education, monitoring, or research – all the responsibilities of Komnas HAM.
Hate ideology will not survive in a civilization that upholds human rights. This is a big task for Komnas HAM, to build a new civilization for a society based on human rights principles in order to repel threats from hate ideology.