JAKARTA, Indonesia – This morning, Indonesians woke up with Netflix blocked, continuing Indonesia’s tumultuous relationship with internet censorship.
The main reason for this censorship is Indonesia’s harsh and incredibly broad anti-pornography laws, signed in 2008, which have a wide definition of pornography as “any pictures, sketches, illustrations, photographs, writings, sound, sound image, moving animation, cartoons, conversations, gestures, or other forms of message through various forms of communication media and/or performances in public, which contain obscenity or sexual exploitation.”
While this law has caught many websites in its snares over the past decade, it is state-owned telecommunications giant Telkom which often makes decisions on whether to allow access to sites, regardless of government positions on them.
Director of Consumer Affairs at Telkom, Dian Rachmawan, said “as a state-owned enterprise, Telkom should be an example and uphold the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia in business.”
Indonesia also has foreign ownership laws which can often discourage foreign companies to set up in Indonesia. These laws force companies to open an office in Indonesia, pay taxes and fees and hire local staff.
This is especially difficult for online companies and websites. Rappler had a look at some of the most notoriously censored sites and devices in Indonesia.
Just weeks after its arrival, state telecommunications provider Telkom announced it would block Netflix on all services it provides, and those of its subsidiary companies.
Dian Rachmawan of Telkom, said Netflix “[doesn’t] have the permit to operate, and many of their contents are forbidden in Indonesia,” and would be banned from midnight on January 26.
However, the government previously gave Netflix a guarantee that it had until February 7 to comply with Indonesia’s censorship laws, while Telkom said it was important to not block Netflix, but instead regulate it.
Netflix broadcasts many shows that depict nudity, violence and drug use, such as Breaking Bad, Orange Is The New Black and Skins.
The launch of Netflix was highly anticipated in Indonesia, and across the world as Netflix announced it would be broadcasting to over a hundred new countries in 2016.
In May 2014, the Communications Minister Tifatul Sembiring, from the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party, announced the Indonesian government was clamping down on its anti-pornography law, and banned several websites in one hit.
Popular video-sharing website Vimeo was the first of those picked up for hosting ‘pornographic content’, and was subsequently banned.
However, instead of applying selective filters to censor nudity and pornography found on the site, the government blocked the whole of Vimeo, angering many social media users who use it to share and watch videos.
The ban was raised in November 2014 following the election of the new government.
Indonesia blocked the self-proclaimed Front Page of the Internet at the same time as Vimeo, in May 2014. The website, among the most popular in the world, is a forum-based site where users discuss and vote on a whole number of issues.
The website has many ‘dark corners’ which host pornographic content and heated religious and political debate, but no more than Facebook or Twitter does. However, reddit does not censor its content.
Instead of blocking individual forums, or ‘subreddits’ as they are known, the government applied a ban to the whole website.
reddit is still blocked on some ISPs in Indonesia.
Imgur is one of the most popular image-sharing sites on the internet, but never gained a huge amount of traction in Indonesia.
The site hosts all kinds of images from all across the world, including many the Indonesian government considered immoral.
The government blocked Imgur alongside reddit and Vimeo in May 2014. The site was also accused of hosting pornographic content, and is still blocked on some ISPs today in Indonesia.
Youtube was controversially blocked in 2008 after it refused to pull down the short satirical film by far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders called ‘The Innocence of Muslims,’ which included a sketch mocking the Prophet Muhammed.
The short film incited rage across the world, which resulted in the site being blocked in many Islamic countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, which only just lifted its ban.
The ban was lifted after two days, when YouTube complied with requests to block access to the video in Indonesia, and after public outcry.
Youtube is one of the biggest websites in the world, and is the second most popular search engine behind google, both of which are now owned by Alphabet. – Rappler.com