Countering Violent Extremism in Indonesia: Using an Online Panel Survey to Assess a Social Media Counter-Messaging Campaign

This report presents the results of an evaluation designed to assess the effects of countering violent extremism (CVE)–themed social media content used in a campaign to promote tolerance, freedom of speech, and rejection of violence in Indonesia. RAND Corporation researchers studied the effects of the campaign by recruiting a sample of Indonesian youth on Facebook and randomly assigning them to a treatment condition that exposed participants to CVE social media posts or a control condition. This report details the research design and findings and offers recommendations for improving such evaluations in the future.

The group Search for Common Ground (SFCG) worked with a market research firm to design content for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using two different hashtags developed specifically for the CVE campaign: #AkuTemanmu (“I am your friend”) and #CapekGakSih (“Aren’t you tired?”). RAND researchers recruited 1,570 participants from Indonesia via a series of Facebook advertisements. They assigned participants either to a treatment group that viewed SFCG’s CVE content or to a control group that viewed non-CVE placebo content that consisted of advertisements from Indonesian entertainment media and retail companies, as well as public service announcement campaigns.

The results indicate that audiences recognized and liked the CVE-themed content at levels comparable to control content, and there were positive effects regarding attitudes toward promoting inclusivity online, although the effect was the result of an unusual, sudden drop in attitudes of control group participants. There also were strong, significant negative treatment effects regarding respondents’ attitudes toward living in separated communities.

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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