YouTube posts falsely claim 'Australians rally to support Indonesia over reef dispute'

A false claim that Australians staged a protest demanding their government reconcile with Indonesia over a disputed reef has circulated in videos on YouTube that have racked up hundreds of thousands of views. The videos feature a doctored thumbnail image and use clips unrelated to the issue. Indonesia has said it is not claiming Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea and there is no territorial conflict with Australia.

One of the misleading videos has been viewed more than 357,000 times after it was posted here on YouTube on November 26, 2022.

"It happened today! Australians rallied to demand peace with Indonesia and resolve the Pulau Pasir dispute," reads the video's Indonesian-language title, referring to the islets known in Australia as Ashmore Reef.

The thumbnail image of the five-minute, 14-second video shows a chyron with a logo of international broadcaster CNBC and text that reads: "Western media shocked! Australians protest to demand peace with Indonesia."

In the thumbnail picture, a female news anchor can be seen standing in front of a TV screen that shows people protesting carrying Australian and Indonesian flags, and a banner that reads: "Stop War Indonesia".

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on February 28, 2023

Other videos have also circulated on YouTube alongside a similar claim, such as here, here, here and here -- racking up a total of more than 441,000 times.

In October 2022, Indonesian media, including state-run news agency Antara, reported that an Indonesian fisherman had intended to file a lawsuit against Australia over its "ownership of Pulau Pasir".

The reef is part of MoU Box, an area in the Australian waters in the Timor Sea that can be accessed by Indonesian traditional fishers based on a 1974 agreement between the two neighbouring countries.

However, the claim is false.

Doctored image

The image featured in the thumbnail for the first video shows a news anchor purportedly presenting a segment about a rally in Australia.

But reverse image searches on Google and Yandex found that the thumbnail has been doctored using unrelated images.

The image of the news anchor was lifted from the thumbnail of this CNBC Indonesia news report, which was published on YouTube on November 24, 2022.

In the original thumbnail, news anchor Savira Wardoyo stands in front of a TV screen showing an image of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In the original CNBC Indonesian news segment, there is no coverage about a protest by Australians.

Meanwhile, the photo of the rally was previously published in this November 2015 report by the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) about people protesting plans to build a new mosque in Buchanan, New South Wales.

The genuine picture shows a big banner that says "Reclaim Australia Rally Newcastle" and a placard that reads: "Stop the Buchanan Mosque".

In the doctored thumbnail, those were replaced by an Indonesian flag and a placard that says: "Stop War Indonesia". Another Indonesian flag was also added to the doctored thumbnail.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the doctored thumbnail (centre), the genuine CNBC Indonesia thumbnail (top) and the genuine ABC photo (bottom):

Screenshot comparison of the doctored thumbnail (centre), the genuine CNBC Indonesia thumbnail (top) and the genuine ABC photo (bottom)

Unrelated clips

AFP reviewed the misleading video and found none of its footage shows Australians protesting to demand their government reconcile with Indonesia.

The first four seconds of video shows Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida during the G20 summit in Bali in November 2022, while the 1:10 mark shows a meeting between Jokowi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the same event.

At the six-second mark, the video shows a Russian navy ship on a goodwill visit to the British city of Portsmouth back in 2012.

The clip at the 10-second mark shows an "Invasion Day" rally in the Australian city of Brisbane on January 26, 2021. It was part of a nationwide rallies that called for the abolishment of Australia Day and policy changes to help the country's Indigenous people.

Other scenes in the video show other unrelated events, including a meeting between Jokowi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during an ASEAN-Australia summit in Cambodia in November 2022, as well as a security drill and briefing by the Indonesian military ahead of the G20 summit in Bali.

No territorial conflict

The claim that Australia and Indonesia are at war over Ashmore Reef is not true.

Indonesia has never claimed Ashmore Reef and there is no credible report that the two countries are currently at war.

AFP has debunked similar claims about the fictional military conflict between Indonesia and Australia over Ashmore Reef, such as here, here, here and here.