Indonesia Government Introduces Vague Law Making Offensive/Embarrassing Memes Illegal

from the u-mad-bro? dept

Confession time: I think memes generally suck. Yes, yes, I know you love them, but when I think of memes, I tend to think of political memes on Facebook that I then have to drop links into the comments on, stupid copyright trolling over them, and that time Axl Rose tried to DMCA a meme so that nobody would see that he dipped into the chocolate fudge too much recently.

Which is why I’m going to move to Indonesia, where the government has decided it’s time to put a strict control policy on any memes it finds offensive, embarrassing or that incite fear.

Its Electronic Information and Transactions Law (ITE) punishes any electronic media communication that incites fear or embarrassment under its defamation article. The public has continuously called for the article’s removal, but instead Indonesia is introducing more restrictions to freedom of expression. Posting memes, texts, pictures, or videos would be punishable if found to have a defamatory or slanderous tone.

And, hey, what could possibly go wrong? After all, nobody actually wants to defend memes that incite fear, or are defamatory or slanderous, do they? And nobody wants to be embarrassed, right? Well, as per usual when it comes to censorship codified in law, the devil is in the nearly complete lack of details.

According to the Indonesian government, this provision stands to prevent and control cyberbullying. But it can further be used as a political tool against opposition during elections. Citizens reproach this act, as there are no clear rules that define what is considered offensive. The government decides and is often ambiguous about it.

Since its implementation in 2008, 200 people have been prosecuted according to data from the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network. Among the most notable cases, was the prosecution of Prita Mulyasari in 2009 for complaining about Omni International Hospital services on an online mailing list.

In other words, by crafting the law in about the most ambiguous manner possible, the Indonesian government can simply make up on the spot what it considers offensive, defamatory, and all the rest. This inoculates them against memes as a political tool. And the idea of a complete dearth of political memes sounds like heaven, except that a government that would ban them is exactly the kind of target for which they would be appropriate.

Dressing up censorship in language to do with stopping offense and fear is an age-old tactic, one that those of us that believe in free speech should not let stand in any corner of the world. Free the meme, Indonesia!

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Comments on “Indonesia Government Introduces Vague Law Making Offensive/Embarrassing Memes Illegal”

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DannyB (profile) says:

Vague new laws

Don’t use the word Vague to describe new laws. Right thinking people would use the word Flexible.

Flexible new laws.

Laws regarding “offensive” things can be flexible because every citizen agrees on exactly what is offensive, otherwise they might be guilty of breaking that very law.

Humor should be no defense against an offensive meme law. Nobody needs humor. It just drags down productivity.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Indonesian government's Kickstarter project

to develop additional surveillance software.

In October 2002, Peter Ho, the permanent secretary of defense for the tiny island city-state of Singapore, paid a visit to the offices of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the U.S. Defense Department’s R&D outfit… . Ho didn’t want to talk about military hardware. Rather, he had made the daylong plane trip to meet with retired Navy Rear Adm. John Poindexter, one of DARPA’s then-senior program directors and a former national security advisor to President Ronald Reagan. Ho had heard that Poindexter was running a novel experiment to harness enormous amounts of electronic information and analyze it for patterns of suspicious activity — mainly potential terrorist attacks.

The two men met in Poindexter’s small office in Virginia, and on a whiteboard, Poindexter sketched out for Ho the core concepts of his imagined system, which Poindexter called Total Information Awareness (TIA). It would gather up all manner of electronic records — emails, phone logs, Internet searches, airline reservations, hotel bookings, credit card transactions, medical reports — and then, based on predetermined scenarios of possible terrorist plots, look for the digital “signatures” or footprints that would-be attackers might have left in the data space. The idea was to spot the bad guys in the planning stages and to alert law enforcement and intelligence officials to intervene.

“I was impressed with the sheer audacity of the concept: that by connecting a vast number of databases, that we could find the proverbial needle in the haystack,” Ho later recalled.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

silliness abounds...

being against ‘memes’ because they tend to be silly, is like being against oxygen because it supports oxidation….
like anything useful, it has two edges…
also, i used to give a fair amount of credibility to snopes, but have found them tripped up on a number of issues, including recently decrying a REAL NOAA weather map as a ‘hoax’ because it was showing an unlikely -yet entirely plausible- scenario of the hurricane looping back… uh, you booted that one, snopes, and when i checked last night, they still had an erroneous story saying it was a faked map…

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