ELIZABETH SOELISTIO WRITES FROM INDONESIA – This sprawling country, the world’s fourth most populous, is no stranger to internet censorship. However, the consequences of Indonesia’s recent censorship tactics are not only felt by the individual users but also by the community around them.
First, there is the censorship of homosexuality and LGBT activities. Here in early January, Google blocked 80 LGBT dating apps from being downloaded in the country. The dating apps were blocked supposedly because they were used to sell underaged boys for sex. However, many have seen this move from the Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Menkominfo) as discrimination against the LGBT community, pointing out that many users utilize the app for its actual purpose and not just human trafficking.
Currently, homosexuality isn’t illegal in Indonesia, but it is frowned upon and those in the LGBT community become outcasts from society. Also, with the rise of fundamental and extremist views of Islam, the anti-LGBT sentiment continues to grow. Just last year, there were over 300 arrests of LGBT people across Indonesia.
With the heightened anti-LGBT sentiment and the alleged misuse of these LGBT dating apps, the legislature is working to ban “gay propaganda” online and restrict the community’s rights. Despite how little rights the LGBT community already has in Indonesia, this legislature is looking to further penalize homosexual acts at all ages with a maximum sentence of 9 years. The maximum sentence also changes to 12 years if the perpetrator is found to be under 18 years old. So it isn’t just the app users who are being punished, but the whole LGBT community is being taken down with them.
Second, there is the censorship of pornography. Menkominfo announced that they are banning content creator websites, such as Tumblr. Despite functioning as a microblogging platform and social networking website, Tumblr is heavily used by artists, writers and photographers as portfolios for their work. Their justification is that Tumblr allows pornography on their website.
This decision to target Tumblr was taken after an investigation found 360 Tumblr accounts that contained pornographic content. Menkominfo asked Tumblr to take the accounts down in two days, but inaction from Tumblr has caused it to be blocked.
Many netizens have not reacted positively to this ban, as it bans several popular websites, besides Tumblr, and severly penalizes legitimate content creators.
Nadzif Al Aqol complained on Twitter saying “Where’s the negativity, bro? Tumblr is for writing and honing creativity. Bullshit Indonesia.”
Many see this move as overkill because the majority of Tumblr’s content is not pornography. Indonesia has blocked 80,000 websites on the specious ground of pornographic material, fake news, radical views, and … whatever.
“It’s like burning an entire forest just to kill one worm. You might as well block Google,” said one user on Twitter.
Menkominfo has to calculate the multifunctional use these websites and apps have and their significance to members in society. Even though there are cases of human trafficking on LGBT dating apps and pornography on websites, completely banning these social media platforms will not solve these issues. With today’s technology of artificial intelligence and machine learning, can’t the Indonesian government do a more responsible job of locating and shutting down the real sources of evil. It’s time for Indonesia to rethink ITS methods of cracking down on these crimes, instead of punishing innocent users.