Indonesian police have arrested three people they say were part of a syndicate that spread fake news and other misinformation online for money.
The group, called Saracen, posted false news, provocative memes and other forms of content on social media to suit the agenda of their paymasters, said national police spokesman Awi Setiyono.
The alleged syndicate involved about 800,000 social media accounts and offered its services to individuals for payments, he said, adding that police were trying to find out who their clients were.
“These people were engaged in hate speech,” the Setiyono said. “People must not fall for memes intended to create ethnic, religious and racial divisions.”
Ethnic and religious tensions rose earlier this year in the run-up to the Jakarta gubernatorial election pitting then-incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, and former education minister Anies Baswedan.
While campaigning, Basuki was charged with blasphemy after hundreds of thousands of Muslims rallied to demand he be prosecuted over remarks that his opponents misused a verse from the Koran to prevent him from winning another term.
He lost an April election run-off to Anies, who was backed by Muslim conservatives, despite winning the most vote in the first round vote, and was subsequently sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy.
Social media users in Indonesia have raised more than 2,600 dollars for a 94-year-old street vendor who was robbed of his savings.
A video circulated on Twitter and Instagram last week showing the banana seller, Suratman, visibly shaking and later slumping to the ground after a group of three people in a car stole 1.1 million rupiah (82 dollars) in cash from him.
Suratman, who plies his trade in Kota Baru, Jambi province, said in the video that the robbers pretended to buy a bunch of bananas and when he approached the car, they emptied his pocket and sped off.
Suratman said he had saved the money to buy furniture to welcome the Eid al-Fitr festival, which falls on June 25.
After the video went viral, netizens offered to donate money, and a bank employee volunteered to set up a savings account for him.
“Donations began pouring in after the account was created, reaching about 32 million rupiah as of yesterday,” said Amedio Pradipta, a Twitter user who helped coordinate the fundraising campaign.
A volunteer took Suratman to a furniture store, where he bought a set of sofas using the donated money.
The governor of Jambi province, where Suratman lives, donated 5 million rupiah and bought all of his remaining stock, local media reported.
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