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 Snopes.com 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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Filed Under: cyberbullying, free speech, indonesia, memes, offensive


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  1. icon
    art guerrilla (profile), 6 Oct 2016 @ 6:53am

    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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