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Indonesia’s internet freedom under threat from strict government regulations

Local artists voice out concerns as compliance deadline for social platforms looms

  • Amira Waworuntu
  • 20 July 2022
Indonesia’s internet freedom under threat from strict government regulations

The Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Menkominfo) has urged tech companies operating in the country to register under strict new licensing rules. Failure to do so will end in having their platforms blocked… and the deadline is today, July 20, 2022.

Heavily-used apps such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram are being pressured by the government to comply with its content moderation orders, which includes handing over user data. This is to make sure that all content provided online is used in a positive and productive way.

First introduced in November 2020, the new set of rules will give authority to the government in ordering platforms to take down content that could potentially cause “unrest in society” or “disturb public order” (subject to Menkominfo’s judgement) within four to 24 hours.

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This obviously puts a strain on free speech in the country; the third largest democracy in the world. Michael Caster of ARTICLE 19 — a global human rights organisation defending and promoting freedom of speech — has even gone on to mention that Indonesia is “poised to bring about one of the most repressive internet governance regimes in the world,” through this coercion.

It's obvious that the effects of this governmental constraint on content will spillover to Indonesia’s musicians and labels. Heavily dependent on information and communication technologies and its sovereign qualities, the Indonesian electronic music scene has been able to flourish thus far, but could now possibly be under threat.

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Homegrown DJ/producer Ecilo, founder of Synthetik Sounds and UNDERRADAR Records, has voiced his resentment towards the regulations by saying “Sending a message to the government; people who are in Menkominfo are not experts in their fields. If you don't understand what you are doing, shut the fuck up.”

Aldo from the Dead Pepaya label also states his disagreement towards the government’s stance on internet security and big tech companies' efforts on being compliant, but shows his confidence towards the label’s survival. “Data is the new oil, as we have heard through and through. And, it’s not like we’re in a wild west movie, so no need to shoot each other and complain about the urge to be registered. As for Dead Pepaya, we will always try to be agile in this VUCA era; come what may.”

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Meanwhile, Javabass founder Jerome Chandra seems to make room for a middle ground, especially since he got hacked. “Should these platforms be blocked, it will definitely complicate our efforts in event promotion, label releases and merch selling. Do they expect us to print flyers and share them manually like we did 15 years ago? However, as someone who just recently fell victim to the flawed system of a well-known social media app, I’m inclined to agree with the government’s regulations since its main objective is to protect users. Perhaps these companies should open representative offices in the country so that issues can be handled by real, human Customer Service Officers instead of bots. Users should also be legally protected."

If no word comes out of Indonesia in the next few hours, you’ll have known what went down.

[Via: Reuters]

Amira Waworuntu is Mixmag Asia’s Editorial Assistant, follow her on Instagram.

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