Indonesia and its Porn Troubles

By: Alex Fayette on 6 August 2010
Posted in Asia, Indonesia, ONI

After the online release of the “Peterporn” sex tapes earlier this summer in Indonesia, the government there began panicked talk of Internet censorship to stop this kind of material from appearing for dissemination once more.

Even though this predominantly Muslim nation already has anti-pornography laws in place which permit the government to prosecute offenders who post these prohibited materials online, this deterrent has been deemed ineffective after this recent rash of releases.

With a recent article out of the Jakarta Post and another out of the New York Times, this situation is now hitting the global spotlight.

Now along with the support of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was once hesitant about enacting any sort of mass censorship, a new filtration plan has been thrown together in a haphazard way that looks to be neither organized nor sustainable.

The government is placing the filtration burden on the ISPs and public access points to the Internet, like cyber cafes. Surprisingly, there has been little-to-no objection from the Indonesian service providers except for concerns over the technical feasibility of the filtration. The government slapped a target date for the blockage of porn sites to become active before the Muslim holy fasting period of Ramadan. With it starting on August 11th this year, the preparation period for these filters was only about one month.

As one might suspect, this has proven to be a challenge.

According to reports out of Indonesia, there is not even a government black-list of sites yet. Even with one, the expectation is that they will only be able to target the “famous” pornographic sites which, naturally, is only a small percentage of the overall pornographic content available over the Internet. On top of that, the governmental order to take this action was sent out in a shockingly unorganized manner. There actually is no “official” order for this action yet, and it seems like there has been little specificity as to how each ISP or internet cafe should try to block the sites.

This is no Great Firewall of Indonesia. It is more like the Great Fence instead (some aprts may be metal; others, white-picketed).

While many free speech and Internet rights activists both in Indonesia and abroad have expressed concern of the government asking for pornographic filtration, this instance has actually been a rare case where public support for some type of action has been quite vocal. A public backing of a censorship policy may help this Internet barrier become a reality, but the naivete of the government, with its disorganization and unrealistic goals, may be the brick that thankfully slips out of these plans to make the Internet a more closed place for Indonesia.

As August 11th rolls around next week, careful attention should be given to this situation, especially to see the response to, what most are predicting will be, a failure of the filtering plan.

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