Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie, Jakarta – The State Palace has defended the use of social media influencers to promote public policies, claiming the opinion leaders spearheaded the country's digital transformation and democracy.
Presidential spokesperson Fadjroel Rachman said influencers played a vital role as "key opinion leaders" to help communicate public policy in a connected society dominated by a digitally active middle class.
"The active role of these digital actors is an inevitability in the country's digital transformation. They will continue to grow their important roles in developing an information network to affect social, economic and productive political activities," Fadjroel wrote in a statement on Monday.
He added that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had urged the country to push through a digital change as a prerequisite for a digital economic and democratic transformation. "Therefore, many policies need to be based on digital society and system."
The government has been criticized for using social media influencers to promote its policies. Civil society groups have expressed concern that such a practice might be used to cover up problems in policies and muddle the public discourse.
A study issued by Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) found that President Jokowi's administration had spent Rp 90.4 billion (US$6 million) since its first term in office on goods and services procurement containing the word "influencers" in the documents.NGOs fear social media influencers might speak beyond their capacity or without proper disclosure that their content is sponsored or under a paid partnership with the government.
Several social media influencers came under fire in August for posting content supporting the controversial omnibus bill on job creation using the hashtag #IndonesiaButuhKerja (Indonesia Needs Jobs).
While denying that the campaign had been ordered by the government, an expert with the Executive Office of the Presidential, Donny Gahral Adian, argued that using influencers to promote policies was fair enough, because they could reach a broad audience through social media.