Discussing Indonesia’s internet regulations

By admin, in News + Observations Observations on .

The internet and all its content has always been both a blessing and curse. Over the last month, the Indonesian Association of Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI) has urged the government to implement a restriction for the access of popular websites YouTube and Google. “Both these websites are equal to providing pornography and hence worthy to be blocked. There are millions of pornographic and violent content on both these websites,” said Muhammad Jafar Hafsah, the secretary general of ICMI.

What follows was a firestorm of strong responses from the Indonesian people in general, from communities to individuals who made their displeasure over these remarks known mainly through social media. The most extreme response was that ICMI’s website at icmi.co.id came under fire and was hacked by people claiming to be affiliated by Anonymous. The subtitle of the page was changed into “ICMI urged the government to block YouTube and Google. Improve your security first then talk about blocking Google”. A harsh response towards an equally harsh statement.

To understand why the internet is considered to be a hotbed for discourse among the Indonesian people, we have to go back a few years back to 2010, when the government began formulating the “Internet Sehat” (healthy internet) programme. Under this new policy, Indonesian internet service providers (ISP) were forced to block numerous websites that are suspected to have pornographic or obscene content. For better or for worse, the programme reached full implementation and most X-rated website are currently unreachable through any Indonesian ISP. It was a decisive victory for regulation advocates.

It’s hard to argue against the logic behind blocking pornographic websites. However, what spawned a wave of public outcry were the government and some organisations’ attempts at blocking numerous other websites that contain valuable content and information. Not long after, the notorious internet community of Reddit became a target for blockage. Granted, there are parts of Reddit that contain unsavoury content, but the government and ISPs rolled out a near-complete blackout of the website. Manga (Japanese comic) websites were next, video sharing platform Vimeo and microblogging website Tumblr followed. In the case of Tumblr, the public’s outcry exceeded anything the government has faced before and the blockage was overturned after not only one week.

Based on these cases, it’s easy to see that the majority of internet users in Indonesia are still logical and reasonable. When the decision came to block specific pornographic websites came about, most of the outcry came in the form of lamentations and caution. But once certain people began pointing fingers at other websites that are not purely obscene, pitchforks were raised.

If Google and YouTube were blocked, Indonesia wouldn’t be the first country in the world to limit access to a multinational billion-dollar company. China has blocked Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for years now. The country has since replaced these with home-grown websites of their own. According to freedomhouse.org, Indonesia rates at a general score of 42 (out of 100 as the best score) in terms of freedom on the internet and a score of 12 (with 0 as the best and 35 as the worst) in terms of limits on content. This squarely puts Indonesia as a “partly free” country when it comes to browsing the internet.

So what’s behind all the fuss in regards to internet regulation? As with any nation in the world, progressives are pitted against conservatives in the public discourse arena. Even the United States have toyed around with internet laws for the last few years and have mostly received a vigour backlash from the majority of internet users in the country. Unlike the United States, education in Indonesia can still be considered lacking. According to many, this is the root cause in the disparity of opinions between those that are internet-savvy and those that are not up to their standards –even though Indonesia has about 73 million internet users and an estimated 30% penetration rate according to the country’s Ministry of Communication and Information.

With that much internet users, Indonesia will always be a market that’s desired by every kind of internet-based company. Up to this day, there are only –if any at all- lax regulations and rules that web-based companies have to follow. Coupled with the government’s previous efforts to regulate the internet, it shows that the higher ups are at a disconnect with the internet culture and what it stands for. Internet users of Indonesia have grown increasingly tired of the government’s efforts in curbing obscene content on the internet, plainly because they’re not accurate and effective. Perhaps it’s time to find an alternative that will embrace the ideals of the younger internet generation –one that’s not an umbrella ruling that blocks everything that contain trace amounts of obscene content.

 

Q&A

Faela Shafa – Journalist

 

What are your thoughts on the government blocking access to certain websites on the internet?

I think it’s okay, for now. Because not every netizen fully understands on how to use the internet itself. Besides, we can still access the blocked websites with certain methods.

Do you think the internet is a big source for moral degradation?

Depends on how you use it. It can be the source of moral degradation for petty people. In fact, many internet users still need guidance on using the internet.

In your opinion, should the internet be regulated at all?

Ultimately, I don’t think it’s necessary. But because so many people are using it for the wrong purposes (watch porn and rape girls later on or make a separatist movement). So it may need to be regulated at least for the next few years.

In your opinion, why are so many people “afraid” of the internet?

Because they don’t know what they’re dealing with. You can only be afraid of something you don’t know about or you’re not familiar with.

 

 

Gulia Ichikaya Mitzy – Lecturer

What are your thoughts on the government blocking access to certain websites on the internet?

I think what government is doing is the right choice, because sometime there are many websites that aren’t meant for children under 13 to access or view.

Do you think the internet is a big source for moral degradation?

No, I don’t think so. Generally I think it depends on who or what, and why they use it. It all comes back to the people who utilise it.

In your opinion, should the internet be regulated at all?

In my opinion, yes it should be regulated. I think there’s no harm in trying to cut off the bad contents of the internet.

On a daily basis, what purpose do you mostly use the internet for?

I mostly use the internet to access information and knowledge based on my study and research.

In your opinion, why are so many people “afraid” of the internet?

Many people are afraid because they don’t know about “what the internet is”. They just know the internet is part of a modern world but they don’t know how to use it well.

 

Larassati Indah – Business Manager

 

What are your thoughts on the government blocking access to certain websites on the internet?

I think they have the right to block the access to sites that provide illegal content. At some point, the government need to filters searches, block sites, and erases inappropriate content.

Do you think the internet is a big source for moral degradation?

It could be. The internet is not the only reason but it does play a role because they can provide us with a lot of information instantly.

In your opinion, should the internet be regulated at all?

I think so. To prevent the illegal or inappropriate contents to be spread. But the regulation needs to be very clear.

In your opinion, why are so many people “afraid” of the internet?

Maybe because there are a lot of things the internet can do. Our privacy could be spread without our consent or if others have the bad intention to hack our accounts. And for some parents, inappropriate content can easily be found on the internet hence making them worry about their children.

Recommended articles