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Internet Filtering and Online Freedom of Expression in Indonesia

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Indonesia, with population around 240 million people, now has 55 million Internet users, not including 33 million Internet mobile users who use a smartphone, tablet or modem dongle. There are at least 100 million active mobile numbers used for broadband/ 3G data access. For social media, Indonesia has 29.4 million users of Twitter. This figure puts Indonesia as the most active twitter country in the world, and Jakarta is the most active twitter city in the world. Indonesia also has 40.6 million Facebook users and about 3.3 million bloggers, with 33 local blogger communities. In terms of Internet infrastructure, Indonesia has 150 Internet Service Provider (ISP), 35 Network Access Provider (NAP), and 5 broadband 3G operator. To interconnect the data traffic within ISPs in Indonesia, there are about 10 nodes of Indonesian Internet eXchange (IIX) managed APJII (Indonesian ISP Association, APJII.or.id).

The entire ISP and mobile operators in Indonesia are now subject to the Ministry of Communications and ICT requests to block pornographic, gambling, copyright infringement and hates speech content. But there is no official reference and guidance from the government on how to block. So that the ISPs and 3G operators using its own system and database to perform the blocking. They feel compelled to follow the orders because getting threat of sanctions in the form of revocation of their license.

Blackberry / RIM was one of the example how the business sector forced to censor their content in Indonesia. RIM use Nawala Foundation (Nawala.org) blocking services to do filtering. Nawala is an organization that provides content blocking mechanism using DNS filtering or Open DNS. Founded in 2007, Nawala originally intended to serve only members of Indonesian Internet Kiosk Association (AWARI.or.id) and whoever those want to filter their Internet access, voluntarily. (Info: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/home/indonesian-government-hails-blackberry-porn-filters/418185)

Just last week, APJII announced a partnership with Nawala. APJII provides 5 servers and operating costs for the purposes of blocking content. According to APJII, partnering with Nawala is one of the best efforts to protect the beginner Internet users and children from negative content such as pornography, gambling content and hate speech. Those 5 servers is planned to be planted in the nodes of IIX, we called Nawala-IIX. Database of the blacklisted sites will be managed jointly with APJII and Nawala. Until now, there’s no intention from APJII nor Nawala to invite and involve other parties outside of them, in determining once a site can get blacklisted or not. According to APJII, Nawala-IIX is not obligatory for its members. The system is only an option for the members that want to block the content delivered to their subscriber. For Nawala, the plantation of their blocking server system in the IIX network managed by APJII is something expected since in the prior time. (Info in Bahasa: http://www.antaranews.com/berita/326227/filter-konten-negatif-apjii-tanamkan-dns-nawala)

APJII itself plays a dominant role for ISPs in Indonesia. APJII is a key holder of Internet Protocol (IP) distribution in Indonesia as well as IIX resources. Without IP, there will be no business for ISPs. And without connected to IIX, the data traffic between the members of the ISP within Indonesia should be going to international first, the re-entry into Indonesia. Certainly it will be more costly than if the traffic only exchanged inside Indonesia. Only a member of APJII, and subject to their rules, that can be connected to IIX.

The Government regularly pushes the ISPs and operators, regarding to the content blocking policy. The last one was on July 18, 2012, when the Minister of Communications and ICT invite and evaluate 12 ISPs / operators, representing the others. The ministry asks each of the ISP representatives to open several addresses that should be blocked. In the evaluation session, also attended Senior Officer from the Cyber Crime Unit of Criminal Detective Agencies of the National Police, which also pushed ISPs to continue to refine the mechanism of blocking of content. (Info in Bahasa: http://kominfo.go.id/berita/detail/3337/Siaran+Pers+No.+63-PIH-KOMINFO-7-2012+tentang+Evaluasi+Pemblokiran+Konten+Pornografi)

For the evaluation purposes, number of ISPs and operators suddenly change the flow of theirs data through the system of Nawala. They want to please the government and let the minister assume the blocking process is executed as requested. That sudden substantial overflow traffic during the evaluation session disrupts the Nawala system for a while. But Nawala considered that the evaluation is only a “Ramadhan (Fasting Month – Ed.) traditions” from the Ministry. So after the evaluation session finished that day, number of ISPs and operations indicated unplug their network from Nawala system. (Info in Bahasa, from Nawala official twitter account: https://twitter.com/DNS_Nawala/status/225504907569004545,  https://twitter.com/DNS_Nawala/status/225542958827573249,  https://twitter.com/DNS_Nawala/status/225800121500188672)

Ministry of Communications is also developing their own a database and blocking system called the Positive Trust. The database then becomes one of the ISPs and operators basic references in developing their own blocking system.

All above facts can illustrate the potential challenges for net-neutrality (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_neutrality) , when ISPs and operators “entitled” to install content blocking system in their respective network. Every ISPs and operators are free to use their own choice of blocking system and free to determine the site to be added to the blacklist, aside from already being required by the government.

The challenge, both Nawala and the Nawala-IIX are not yet open/transparent in determining  which sites are worthy or not worthy to be blocked. Then the freedom of expression threatened. There is no chance yet for the public or civil society to make oversight or monitor their decision-making process about the content destiny. And this could potentially be a big problem later on, when what should or should not be accessed by the public via the Internet in Indonesia, handed over to people who do not have any legitimacy either from the government or the public.

In the first week of February 2012, a number of ISPs and operators in Indonesia blocked, intentionally or accidentally, the site of the human rights movement, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission located at www.iglhrc.org (Info: www.iglhrc.org/cgi-bin/iowa/article/pressroom/pressrelease/1481.html).

It is still unclear who and what caused the site was blocked. At the moment the site was blocked, there was an announcement that the site contains pornographic! If this has happened once in Indonesia, then who can guarantee it will not happen again in the future. Just incoming update, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association at www.ILGA.org being blocked by some ISPs and major operators in Indonesia.

Apart from above part of Internet governance issues, there is a challenge to freedom of expression in Indonesia from the Online Defamation article, article 27 paragraph 3 of Law Information and Electronic Transactions (UU ITE). According to a number of law and human rights advocacy organizations in Indonesia, the article is contrary to international law on Human Rights. Online Defamation article is very easy to abuse and to reduce transparency information and freedom of expression in Indonesia.

This article is used by one of the public school in Jakarta in July 2012 to report Musni Umar, a lecturer, to the police because of his writings on the blog which contains allegations of corruption at the school. (Info: www.thejakartaglobe.com/lawandorder/corruption-whistle-blower-accused-of-libel/528233).

In a very religious province West Sumatra, Alexander, a civil servant, interrogated and charged by the police using this article, because he declared himself an atheist on Facebook in January 2012. (Info: www.thejakartaglobe.com/news/dismay-after-indonesian-atheist-charged-with-blasphemy/492622).

And a several years ago, Prita Mulyasari, a mother who has 2 children and 1 baby, jailed because of this article. Prita, detained for three weeks because he sent email complaining about the services one of the private hospital in Tangerang. (Info: www.thejakartaglobe.com/home/prita-mulyasari-cleared-in-internet-defamation-case/314339).

From all of above information, the freedom of expression and human rights in Indonesia, particularly through the Internet, should be actively pursued and guarded jointly by civil societies. If we want establish Internet governance and cyber stewards that pro on freedom of expression and human rights, so we may not be silence and rely on the hands of the government or private parties only. It becomes critical for the strengthening and capacity building of civil societies, information activists as well as blogger local communities.

Thus, we can develop the counterwork of the potential Internet freedom restrictions in Indonesia through many parties. This strategy is a kind of giving the “antibody” (immunization) to them, so that they can be more critical and able to speak out and fight for freedom of expression, transparency, and human rights on the Internet.

Donny B.U. / donnybu[at]ictwatch.com / ICT Watch – Indonesia

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2 Comments

  1. Info Gresik says:

    Blognya berbahasa inggris…dan pageranknya bagus…,saya lagi belajar grammar ni mas..pingin juga blogging pake bahasa sono..sementara masih konsen merawat portal daerah…

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