An Indonesian singer-turned-YouTuber, Erdian Aji Prihartanto (commonly known as Anji), stirred quite a controversy after uploading a video of his interview on YouTube. In the video, he interviewed a person who claimed to have discovered a remedy for the COVID-19.
The video – which sparked doubts and debate over the validity of the information and the source’s academic reputation – was later removed from YouTube.
The incident showed that the urgent need for COVID-19 medicine and vaccine has led people to blindly believe any information that went viral without verifying it first. What’s more, many would even casually share such a piece of information on social media.
Specialist and Indonesia’s BPOM denied Mr Hadi’s claim over medicine for COVID-19
Hadi Pranoto, the interviewee in the video than went viral, claimed that he had discovered a herbal medicine for COVID-19 patients – called antibody COVID-19. He also confirmed that the medicine he produced had been used for COVID-19 patients in an emergency hospital at Wisma Atlet Kemayoran, Central Jakarta.
However, the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) and the Food and Drugs Supervisory Body (BPOM) have yet to confirm any release of such a medication.
“Up till now, the BPOM never approves herbal medicine’s claim to cure all types of illness, including for the COVID-19 infection” BPOM Chief Penny Kusumastuti Lukito told Kompas on 2 August, adding that a herbal medicine’s claim has to undergo scientific clinical testing.
Dr Faisal, a pulmonologist who is also Head of the Indonesian Pulmonologist Education, snubbed Mr Hadi’s statement about his medicine for COVID-19 at Wisma Atlet.
“So it is such a lie if he said his medicine had been given to patients at the Wisma Atlet Emergency Hospital. The patients stay there as if they stay at a hotel. They are only provided with food and being isolated, aimed at preventing the transmission from taking place. They are isolated until they fully recover after fourteen days.
“COVID-19 patients are taken there for self-quarantine, for being cured. They are being cured at COVID-19 designated hospitals,” said the specialist on 3 August.
Hadi Pranoto’s academic reputation is questioned
After Mr Anji and Mr Hadi Pranoto went viral on social media, Indonesians were scouring the Internet for more information on who Hadi Pranoto is. In the video, Mr Hadi introduced himself as a microbiologist and a head of Research Team on COVID-19 Antibody Formula.
Based on the database from the Higher Education at the official website of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Hadi Pranoto earned his Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Muhammadiyah in East Java, his Master’s Degree at Mulawarman University in East Kalimantan, and his PhD at the Bogor Agricultural Institute (IPB).
However, according to the Dikti database, Hadi Pranoto is a lecturer at the Mulawarman University – clearly someone else entirely from the one who appeared in the YouTube video.
The agro-forestry lecturer received an apology from Kompas for mistakenly assuming that he is the person interviewed by the singer. The lecturer also asked media to clarify the information that he is not the one in the viral video.
Well-educated people are also vulnerable to hoax
The increase in the use of social media has enabled people to receive, share, and create any information. But whether or not such information is accurate is a whole new matter.
Conspiracy theories on COVID-19 are among the widely-shared information pieced in recent months. Even well-educated people tend to believe that the virus is non-existent and is simply a hoax.
Case in point, author Kelly Brogan is one of the educated individuals who ignored the dangers of the virus, believing that the COVID-19 is merely a conspiracy theory. The Massachusets Institute of Technology-graduate also claimed that COVID-19 never existed as she questioned the scientific researches on the COVID-19, BBC reported.
People tend to believe misinformation because they feel represented by the information they read without checking it first. Also, when it comes to online news, many people have the tendency to only read the headlines rather than going through the whole story.
In fact, earlier in June, Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Information noted that around 80 hoax news pieces were circulating on social media every week.