[Indonesia] Fading Rainbows on the Net

JAKARTA – The Indonesian government uses three approaches to control negative content online, says Ferdinandus Setu, head of the public-relations bureau of the Ministry of Communication and Information, also known as Kominfo.

The first is the legal approach through the Electronic Information and Transaction Law (ITE). The second, Ferdinan says, is technological and involves content-scavenger machines that work 24 hours and are supported by 70 human verifiers. Third and last is the push for digital literacy that includes the national “Think Before Posting” campaign.

“The government,” declares Ferdinan, “has a commitment to fight disinformation and fake news.”

The bespectacled official says that the dissemination of disinformation has many motives, including economic, political, religious, and social. He says that based on complaints from the public, the government from 2010 to September 2018 blocked 912,000 websites, applications, and accounts. Pornographic websites (854,876) made up the bulk of that number, followed by those on gambling (51,496), fraudulent ones (4,941), sites linked or identified with terrorism and radicalism (453), and others.  

According to Ferdinan, the government has noted a significant rise in reports of negative content on social media. In 2017, he says, YouTube and Google had the most with a combined total of 1,307 complaints about negative content; from January to September 2018, the comparative figure was already at 1,530.  Complaints about content on Facebook and Instagram, however, were even higher. Ferdinan says that in 2017, these totalled 2,232. For the first nine months of 2018, complaints had already reached 6,123.

He confirms that the government has routinely blocked websites with LGBT content because these have “disturbed” the community. He also says that these sites “had elements of pornography” and campaign to “influence people to become LGBT”.

Kominfo data for the year 2016 show that 11 DNS and three IP addresses known to have been managed by LGBT groups were blocked. In 2017, 71 LGBT smartphone applications were blocked, along with 12 DNS and 169 LGBT websites.

That’s a violation of the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy, says Damar Juniarto, founder of the Digital Democracy Forum and regional coordinator of the Southeast Asian Freedom of Expression Network (Safenet). He says that the state blocking of the sites and apps effectively narrows the online space of LGBTs, who have already found themselves muzzled offline.

Teguh (Imam) Affandi of SuaraKita says that Kominfo had permanently blocked the rights group’s original website in 2013. SuaraKita then set up a new one; Teguh says that it came under the threat of being blocked once more in 2016, but the authorities eventually did not push through with their plan. Still, Facebook has deleted SuaraKita’s account, Teguh reports. He says that at the behest of Kominfo, Google Play Store has also blocked LGBT dating applications such as Blued, Grindr, U2nite, Dattch, Hornet, and BoyAhoy.

“Twitter is quite friendly,” says Teguh. “They ask us first to verify (whether or not a complaint against us is true). So now the account is stronger and not easily blocked.”

Damar says that such state actions online can be considered as “new attacks” on the LGBT community. Access to information about sexual orientation and gender identity, he says, is a basic right that must be defended by the government. Yet, says Damar, authorities are even flouting the ITE law and violating the people’s right to privacy by allowing police to go undercover in LGBT social-media sites and use what they discover there to make arrests.

At least, though, Kominfo is also making efforts to promote digital literacy. According to Aris Kurniawan, head of Kominfo’s Sub-Directorate of Digital Literacy, the ministry has a programme aimed at improving the ability of the community to seek, process, produce, and spread content positively and productively. The programme is also expected to protect the public from disinformation and reduce intolerance.

Yudi Prayudi, head of the Centre for Digital Forensics Studies, meanwhile says that the state should not be the only one that should bear the responsibility of combating disinformation. The likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram should also take part in trying to find solutions to the problem, he says. Yudi adds that so far, only WhatsApp has digital security and is able to limit the forwarding of content. He says that the strategy that must be developed to stop disinformation should be one that would increase the number of positive and constructive content on social media.

For his part, Aribowo of the Indonesian Anti-Slander Society or Mafindo says that the community must be able to play an active role in cleaning up negative content on social media by jointly conducting digital patrols and reporting problematic content either to the platform company such as Facebook and Twitter or to Kominfo through aduankonten.id. Mafindo itself is committed to fight disinformation and has digital initiatives released on TurnBackHoax.ID together with 22 influential online media at CekFakta.com.

There are as well the likes of SuaraKita, which has joint up with the Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat), along with universities, religious and women leaders, and the Alliance of Independent Journalists Indonesia (AJI) to raise awareness about rights and gender diversity. Teguh says that the initiative makes use of social-media platforms to educate the public.

“We give understanding to the community that humans are diverse,” she says. There are not only heterosexuals, but also homosexuals and bisexuals.”

Suwandi is a writer and editor at Jambipro.com, an online portal based in Jambi, Indonesia. This story was published/produced under the Southeast Asian Press Alliance 2018 Journalism Fellowship Program, supported by a grant from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

This story has been published/produced within the context of a Grant received for the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (seapa.org) Fellowship programme for 2018-2019 from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of OHCHR. Read here for the full story in Bahasa.

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