Indonesian Court Gives The Government Permission To Pull The Plug On The Internet Whenever It Feels Threatened
from the just-going-to-steer-clear-of-that-whole-'checks-and-balances'-things dept
The government of Indonesia is taking greater direct control of the internet. Over the past several months, it has implemented a new law that places a ton of burdens on platforms and service providers that deal extensively with content created by third parties.
The new law — referred to as MR5 — is pretty much the inverse of Section 230 immunity that sites in the United States enjoy. Intermediary liability is the name of the game in Indonesia. Providers are ordered to take down content that could cause “community anxiety” and instructed to keep a look out for any ways people might be sharing such forbidden content.
This means providers are not only expected to police their services and platforms for content they can see but also head off circumvention efforts, like the use of VPNs. On top of that, providers are expected to engage in continuous monitoring of content and create filters that will block content the government finds upsetting, including gambling, blasphemy (but only against state-approved deities), and the always meaningless catchall, “fake news.”
The law has been made even worse as the EFF reports. Providers and platforms are already expected to police content. A recent ruling by an Indonesian court says it’s perfectly legal for the government to pull the plug on the internet at its discretion.
Indonesia’s Constitutional Court dealt another blow to the free expression and online privacy rights of the country’s 191 million internet users, ruling that the government can lawfully block internet access during periods of social unrest. The October decision is the latest chapter in Indonesia’s crackdown on tech platforms, and its continuing efforts to force compliance with draconian rules controlling content and access to users’ data. The court’s long-awaited ruling came in a 2019 lawsuit brought by Indonesia NGO SAFEnet and others challenging Article 40.2b of the Electronic Information and Transactions (EIT) Law, after the government restricted Internet access during independence protests and demonstrations in Papua. The group had hoped for a ruling reining in government blocking, which interferes with Indonesians’ rights to voice their opinions and speak out against oppression.
Now, even if local companies comply with the dozens of demands foisted upon them by MR5, they can still expect to see their services shut down if the government feels too much forbidden content is in circulation or if it feels threatened by the content created by presumably unhappy residents. A directive like this is created for a single purpose: to prevent organization of protests criticizing the government. At any point, the government can decide there’s enough “social unrest” to justify shutting down the most popular means of communication.
And all of it dovetails nicely into the long list of restrictions and mandates that are already in force. The government will have minimal problem pulling the plug since all service providers are required to register with the government and store user data locally. Foreign platforms and service providers are required to store data locally as well and create local offices, which will make it much more difficult for them to remain live should the government decide an internet blackout is warranted.
This is a consolidation of power aided and abetted by the court system in Indonesia. This will insulate current rulers from efforts to remove them from power. Without the internet, activists, dissidents, and opposition parties are cut off from each other, preventing them from reaching the critical mass needed to depose the people who have stripped away their freedoms. Under the guise of protecting the public from questionable content, the Indonesian government has given itself enough power to ensure its directives aren’t questioned, much less disobeyed.