VPNs recently came under the scrutiny of the Indonesian government after authorities placed restrictions on social media during the May 21-22 election protests. At that time, the government temporarily banned certain features of social media to censor
the communications that it did not like. Inevitably many Indonesians turned to using VPNs to bypass the ban, causing a sharp increase in VPN downloads.
In response, the government claimed that VPNs, especially the free ones, may pose threats to users'
private data and that they should be uninstalled.
Now the Information and Communications Ministry (Kominfo) chipped in saying that Kominfo will not hesitate to block VPNs that aren't licensed in Indonesia. The licensing requirement seems to be a
tenuous correlation that VPNs are somehow equivalent to ISPs, and ISPs Indonesia must be licensed.
This connection is not quite confirmed as yet and Kominfo is set to meet with the Association of Internet Service Providers in Indonesia (APJII) to
discuss a possible VPN provider ban.
This week, the Indonesian government has forced ISPs to forcibly turn on content filters on search engines by default, which can't be switched off. The new policy has seemingly been extended to Youtube as well, with many netizens now complaining that the
video streaming site's restricted mode feature has been irreversibly switched on, limiting what they can watch.
Based on numerous social media posts, the Youtube restriction applies to users of certain ISPs, both on mobile internet and home
internet. Netizens are reporting that even Taylor Swift and K-Pop music videos are being filtered out.
While the government did not say anything about Youtube being included in their recent censorship push, some ISPs like Indosat Ooredoo have been
replying to complaints from customers about the Youtube restriction, placing the blame on the government. The ISP tweeted:
Hi, Youtube's restricted mode is a government regulation designed to prevent the public from
Indonesian communication and informatics minister Tifatul Sembiring declared its anti-porn mission a jihad, that he says will continue to the end of time. He told the religious griup Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI):
I have often told young, religious teachers to never stop once they start jihad. A jihad may also be in the field of information.
Sembiring said that Indonesian officials have been able to block about a billion
sites for carrying pornographic content, surmising that there are a minimum of three billion such sites in existence.
Antara News reported that Sembiring has come under heavy criticism after banning Vimeo wholesale.
Indonesia's Communications and Information Ministry claims it has blocked nearly 1 million sites that carry pornographic content.
Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring said the censorship of porn sites was in line with the
government's commitment to provide safe sites accessed by Indonesians and build a more positive character for the nation.
We've blocked more than 983,000 porn sites. We will keep on doing it, Tifatul said during a seminar on the Healthy and
Safe Use of the Internet. Tifatul added that the censorship would in turn improve people's ethics in using the Internet for positive purposes.
The Indonesian Communication and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring's new internet censorship strategy calls for rewarding citizens who report porn sites.
We will keep on blocking pornographic contents with various innovations, such as
giving special rewards to members of the public who report porn sites to us, Sembiring said.
The anti-porn official did not say what rewards would be offered and didn't comment as to whether the campaign could backfire by having more people
surf for porn in an effort to weed out what the country describes as offensive material.
The latest salvo launched against online porn asks the public to report the sites via a telephone hot-line.
Sembiring claimed that his
ministry's efforts have successfully blocked 90% of porn sites. But reports say that most of the Ministry's previously targeted sites are still operating.
Telecommunication giant Telkomsel claims to have blocked 800,000 porn sites in response to the
government's drive against pornography during Ramadan.
Telkomsel president director Sarwoto Atmosutarno said that the company had filtered the adult sites through its proxy server or gateway, which automatically denies its customers access to the
Due to the blacklist internet access mechanism, users of Telkomsel's Internet facility will read in their mobile phone, computer or laptop monitors a warning, which reads: Access is denied due to security policy enforcement , if
they try to open a porn site.
But the government's plan to block offensive sites on the Internet has come under fire from several Web sites, including two major news
portals, which have suffered from access problems, presumably as a result of the blocking.
News portal Detik.com's advertisement section and Kompas.com were inaccessible, prompting Internet users and media experts to question the blocking policy.
Detik.com founder and chairman Budiono Darsono expressed his outrage when the portal's subdomain was blocked.
Other Web sites that were blocked included Kompas.com, community forum Kaskus.us, and Google Adsense, a service that provides text-based
Ministry spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto apologized for the blockage, saying that it was only the first day the plan was implemented: We apologize to some Web sites that were also blocked today, he said, adding that it should be
understood that this is a big plan and it takes time to implement it perfectly.
Gatot said that the ministry would soon open a hotline which site users and owners could call to file reports on blockages. The ministry, he said, would verify
the reported sites and take immediate action.
The Indonesian government has pledged to have all porn websites blocked in the country within the next two months as it works to implement the country's strict anti-pornography laws.
We should not wait for too long to close down these sites
because otherwise more will people copy and disseminate this material, said Tifatul Sembiring, the Minister for Communication and Information Technology.
Tifatul noted that pornography was already prohibited by law, pointing to the 2008
Anti-Pornography Law, which was upheld recently by the country's Constitutional Court. That law declares, in part, that the state should protect its citizens from the dangers of pornography.
So if God is willing, we will fulfill our
obligations, otherwise the continued presence of this material will violate our law, he said.
Tifatul explained that the government's move comes in response to a request from Islamic groups and the Indonesian Commission to Protect Children.
He says the government will shut down objectionable domestic sites and ask the country's 180 internet service providers to block international porn sites. A spokesman for the ministry told Canada's Globe and Mail that the government has not
decided yet whether they will impose sanctions on ISPs that do not comply.
Update: Easier said then done
30th July 2010. From thejakartaglobe.com
Communications and Information Technology Ministry says it can block access to up to 3,000 pornographic Web sites a day, as part of Minister Tifatul Sembiring's plan for smut-free Internet.
Ashwin Sasongko, the ministry's director general for
telematics applications, said that his office had already installed filtering software called the Massive Trust Positive in all Internet-enabled computers supplied to villages under the government-sponsored Desa Pintar (Smart Village) program.
acknowledged, however, that with an estimated four million new pornography pages added to the Internet each day, it would be impossible to completely block access to such sites for Indonesian Web users, and called on the public to participate by
reporting offending sites.
But Internet service providers say they need the government to formalize its policy before they can take steps toward blocking the content.
Valens Riyadi, from the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association
(APJII), told the Jakarta Globe that a regulation on the issue was necessary, to ensure that what we do [in terms of filtering sites] doesn't violate public's right to access information.
Ashwin, however, argued that ISPs were better-placed
to identify offending sites, saying it should not be too difficult to filter pornographic content on the Internet and that the ministry would provide them with the list if officially requested.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Telecommunications
Users Group said it supported the ministry's antipornography campaign, but questioned how effective it would be, given that many Indonesians access the Internet through their cellphones.
It's technically quite difficult to filter sites for a
BlackBerry user, so we wonder if the government plans to rope [manufacturer] Research in Motion into doing the filtering, said Muhammad Jumadi, the group's secretary general.
Meanwhile, ministry spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto told the Globe that
the controversial bill on monitoring Internet content was currently being revised, after being widely panned by the public in February. The changes include a new title, Guidelines for Public Complaints on Unlawful Internet Content, signifying its
change of focus to get increased public participation in the plan.
Reports from the public should be justifiable and will be reviewed by a monitoring team, whose proposed makeup we've also changed to include 60 percent public appointees and 40
percent government representatives, Gatot said, adding that the team's chairperson would be selected through a vote.