Social Media Campaign Code of Conduct for the 2024 Election

Kode Etik Kampanye di Media Sosial untuk Pemilu 2024
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Research by the Association for Elections and Democracy (Perkumpulan untuk Pemilu dan Demokrasi or Perludem) entitled "Disruption of the Voting Rights in the 2019 Elections and 2020 Regional Elections: Phenomenon and Mitigation Efforts" (2020) identified three forms of voter suppression in the Indonesian election. First, discrimination in regulations, such as the obligation to have an electronic KTP to access voting rights, which has the potential to eliminate the voting rights of indigenous peoples and refugees, and limitations in voting methods. Second, intimidation and violation of the voting rights. Perludem's research found a lot of hate speech against minority and vulnerable groups, harassment of the right to vote for mental disabilities, and intimidation of mining workers and workers in oil palm plantation areas. Third, information disruption or what is widely understood as disinformation.


Updating the results of the research findings, I found that many psychosocial attacks, disinformation and discrimination in the digital space had emerged ahead of the 2024 election. Once again, vulnerable and marginalized groups are the targets.


Discriminatory, misogynistic, and voter suppression patterns ahead of the 2024 Elections.


There are three vulnerable groups that are my focus in this article, namely women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), and people with mental disabilities. Reviewing the first one, I found two misogynistic and violent content targeting two women politicians, namely Grace Natalie from the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) and Noviana Kurniati, a legislative candidate  for the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP).


From these two cases, there is a narrative pattern that can be concluded. The narrative is packaged to damage the reputation of women candidates or women politicians by questioning religion, denigrating opinions, and associating targets with groups that are disliked by some in society, such as Gerwani and LGBT. Even in Novi's case, personal data in the form of the person's complete address and cellphone number was shared on social media.


The impact is significant. The cultivation of hate narratives, along with threats against Novi, has led to persecution by a group of individuals targeting Novi.


There are several keywords I used to find online content related to attacks and discrimination against women, including "perempuan caleg” (female legislative candidates) and "perempuan pemilu” [women election]. From these two keywords, the keywords "Gerwani" and "lonte demokrasi" [prostitute of democracy] emerged.


The second vulnerable group targeted in online attacks is the LGBT community. Once again, I found discriminatory narratives within paid advertising content targeted on Facebook. These ads have been seen by 20 to 25 thousand people. So, despite Meta's claim that its community guidelines do not condone behavior that discriminates against certain groups, in reality, discriminatory narratives against the LGBT community have managed to pass through the review process for political ads allowed by Meta.


Similar to the attacks against women, there are identifiable narrative patterns in the attacks against the LGBT community. First, there are narratives from political figures (local leaders, legislators, and candidates) that announce anti-LGBT stances, depict LGBT behavior as immoral, and encourage discrimination against LGBT individuals. Second, there are narratives from voters urging political parties and candidates to discriminate against, expel, and punish LGBT individuals.


It's not difficult to find content attacking this group. By using keywords such as “LGBT”, “LGBT pemilu” [LGBT election]”, “moral LGBT”, “anti LGBT”, “usir LGBT” [expel LGBT], “caleg LGBT” [candidate LBGT], and “(nama partai) [party name] LGBT”, you can find plenty of the content I'm referring to.


The third vulnerable group that experiences online discrimination is people with mental disabilities. The pattern that I found was that people with mental disabilities were stigmatized as a group that was unable to vote in elections. A pattern that was also frequently found was the promotion of opinions that the KPU used the votes of "crazy people" to win certain parties and presidential-vice presidential candidate pairs.


In fact, there is Constitutional Court Decision No. 135/PUU-XIII/2015 which states that people with mental disabilities have the right to vote as long as there is no certificate from a mental health specialist stating that a person is unable to vote because they have a permanent mental disorder.


The keywords I used to find online content related to attacks and discrimination against people with mental disabilities include “gila pemilu” [crazy election], “orang gila pemilu” [crazy people election] and “gila TPS" [crazy polling station]


Not surprisingly, these attacks are intertwined with disinformation. One example of a viral hoax during the 2019 Elections was the false claim that people with mental disabilities were forcibly transported to polling stations to vote. The framing of this hoax was how the General Election Commission (KPU) was allegedly trying to secure votes for a particular presidential candidate by mobilizing the votes of people with mental disabilities. In reality, the incident behind the viral photo was people with mental disabilities being transported by law enforcement because they were involved in a criminal case.


Hate speech, discrimination, disinformation, trolling, and doxing are just some of the various types of online attacks during elections. The targets are not only vulnerable groups but also election organizers, human rights activists, journalists, and election participants. Securing social media platforms has become an even greater challenge with the advent of artificial intelligence. It requires a collective or multi-stakeholder commitment to build constructive and inclusive narratives during the 2024 Election campaign.


How do we regulate campaigns on social media?

The Election Law has regulated norms regarding the prohibition of using ethnic, religious, racial and inter-group (SARA) issues in election campaigns, along with criminal threats. However, there are no specific norms regarding election disinformation. Also, Article 280 only targets campaign organizers, election participants and campaign teams.


Unfortunately, there haven't been significant efforts to address the legal gaps in social media campaigning within the Election Commission Regulation (PKPU) on Campaigning. There are only four changes in the PKPU on Election Campaigns. Two of them are related to the limit of election participants' social media accounts on each platform, capped at a maximum of 20 accounts, and the requirement to submit a registration form for social media accounts to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Kementerian Komunikasi dan Informatika or Kominfo).


In the absence of sufficient regulations regarding online campaigning, especially on social media, there is a need for a binding code of conduct for social media campaign that applies to election participants and social media platforms. Platforms should be subject to regulation because they have the ability to moderate content, and it is a fact that various online attacks occur on social media platforms. For instance, the European Union has recognized the importance of increasing the level of responsibility, accountability, and transparency of social media platforms.


Social media campaign code of conduct was implemented in Indonesia during the 2020 Regional Head Elections. Perludem was one of the initiators. This code of conduct was then developed by several countries, including Thailand for the 2023 Elections.


There are two main crucial issues that should be agreed upon within the code of conduct by election participants. First, campaigning constructively, prioritizing inclusivity, and avoiding violence. Second, refraining from spreading misleading content, hate speech, and messages that incite violence.


Meanwhile, for social media platforms, the three key points that need to be committed to are as follows implementing easily accessible reporting and response mechanisms for content moderation related to the 2024 Elections. Second, providing content moderation mechanisms that involve civil society. Third, publishing accountability reports on content moderation during the 2024 Elections.


I recommend also that both political parties and social media platforms agree on three additional points. First, open transparency in political advertising on social media platforms to maintain the integrity and accountability of campaign funds in the 2024 Elections. Second, respect the principles of protecting personal data, both for offline campaign purposes and micro-targeting in political advertising on social media. And third, declaring forms of use of artificial intelligence in election campaigns.


Learning from the initiatives during the 2023 Thai elections, compliance with the campaign code of conduct was periodically monitored. Since Thailand does not have an Election Supervisory Body (Bawaslu), a civil society coalition formed an ad hoc team to conduct monitoring. In the Indonesian context, Bawaslu, with its oversight capabilities at the regional level, can conduct monitoring in collaboration with civil society coalitions, social media platforms, and the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Kominfo). Regular reports can be published to identify which election participants are using discriminatory and disinformation narratives as campaign tactics and which social media platforms are the most responsive in moderating illegal and harmful content.

Social media campaign code of conduct can become a joint commitment encouraged by Bawaslu RI. Hopefully it is not too late to collaborate and promote a more constructive and inclusive election campaign. []


Translated by Catherine Natala

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Amalia Salabi is a researcher at Perludem and organizer. Amalia has an interest in women's issues, alternative politics, Islamic politics, election technology, and digital campaigns. Amalia's work can be read at She loves read and watching movies.
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