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!

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: cyberbullying, free speech, indonesia, memes, offensive

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), 6 Oct 2016 @ 5:26am

    Re: What if the meme you find offensive...

    The law is narrowly crafted to only apply to internet postings, so all they have to do is keep using copyright on the laws as an excuse to take down any copy of the law that gets posted.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.