Censorship law raises fears

A regulation that grants the government sweeping authority to censor content deemed inappropriate on digital platforms has raised concerns that it might further restrict freedom of speech and information in the digital space.

The ministerial regulation, signed by Communication and Information Minister Johnny G. Plate in November, allows the ministry to remove prohibited content on digital platforms owned by the public, individual and private companies, known as digital service providers (PSEs).

The provision is applicable to a wide range of registered domestic and foreign private digital platforms, including social media, search engines, fintech and data processing, whose services are accessible in Indonesia.

This power came into effect yesterday, when the six-month deadline for all private PSEs to register with the ministry expired.

Failure to register might lead to the ministry blocking access to their platform.

The registration, according to ministry spokesperson Dedy Permadi in February as reported by news agency Antara, was aimed at “creating a healthier” cyberspace here.

The regulation defines prohibited content as electronic information or data that violate current laws, incite unrest and disturb public order.

Information and data that facilitate access to the forbidden content is also deemed prohibited as per the regulation.

Registered digital service providers must remove such content within 24 hours after receiving notification from the ministry, and within four hours for content containing child pornography and messages supporting terrorism or if there is an immediate need to remove content that can cause public disorder.

If they ignore the ministry’s order and allow the content to remain accessible to users, the ministry can order Internet service providers to block access to the private PSEs’ platforms.

Other government bodies, law enforcement institutions and the public can report any prohibited content they find on these platforms to the ministry.

Critics slammed the regulation they feared would undermine the right to free speech on the Internet, which was already under pressure due to a draconian cyberlaw – the Electronic Information and Transactions Law – that has sent people to prison for online defamation and hate speech.

The regulation also came into effect against the backdrop of growing digital attacks, including on activists, and data breaches in the country, which further put into question the government’s focus on protecting Indonesian internet users’ data privacy.

US-based international rights group Human Rights Watch said the regulation was “a tool for censorship” and demanded that Indonesia suspend it.

“The Indonesian government should immediately suspend the regulation, and start a consultation process with stakeholders and civil society groups based on the premise that any new or revised regulation must comply with international standards for privacy and free expression, ” it said. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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