Indonesia

Indonesia

Partly Free
51
100
A Obstacles to Access 14 25
B Limits on Content 19 35
C Violations of User Rights 18 40
Last Year's Score & Status
54 100 Partly Free

Overview

Internet freedom in Indonesia declined due to restricted access to social media platforms and the use of content manipulation for political gain around the April 2019 general elections. The death of a detained journalist working for an online outlet, as well journalists being subjected to doxing and other forms of harassment, also contributed to the decline. Meanwhile, critics of the government, most notably journalists and members or supporters of the LBGT+ community, continued to face criminal charges and harassment in retaliation for their online activity.

Indonesia has made impressive democratic gains since the fall of an authoritarian regime in 1998, establishing significant pluralism in politics and the media and undergoing multiple, peaceful transfers of power between parties. However, the country continues to struggle with challenges including systemic corruption, discrimination and violence against some minority groups, separatist tensions in the Papua region, and the politicized use of defamation and blasphemy laws.

Key Developments

June 1, 2018 – May 31, 2019

  • Following the presidential and parliamentary elections in April 2019, authorities restricted social media and communication platforms for two days in an effort to limit the proliferation of disinformation (see A3).

  • Hundreds of thousands of websites containing what the government deems “negative content”—broadly defined as material that includes defamation, immorality, pornography, false information, hate speech, terrorism, and fraud, among others—continued to be blocked (see B1).

  • Disinformation and manipulated content was a problem in the run-up to the April elections; both presidential candidates reportedly hired online campaign strategists who mobilized paid commenters known as “buzzers” and automated accounts to spread political propaganda (see B5).

  • Prosecutions in retaliation for online activity continued during the coverage period, with at least two prison sentences handed down to users for criticizing a textile company and calling for the independence of the Papua province, respectively (see C3).

  • In October 2018, authorities created a “war room” with 70 engineers to monitor social media platforms in real time, and threatened to charge those found violating the law (see C5).

  • In July 2018, journalist Muhammad Yusuf of the local news site Kemajuan Rakyat died in detention while awaiting trial on charges related to his reporting on a land dispute between farmers and a palm oil company (see C3 and C7).

A Obstacles to Access

While smartphone use is widespread, connectivity is restricted by the country’s geography, consisting of 17,000 islands. Authorities imposed blocks on social media and communication platforms during the coverage period, as well as restrictions to connectivity. Meanwhile, the 2018 restructuring of the Indonesia Telecommunication Regulatory Body (BRTI) gave the agency greater authority.

A1 0-6 pts
Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections? 46

Internet penetration is steadily increasing, driven largely by rapid growth in the number of mobile subscriptions. The low number of fixed-line subscribers stems from the lack of infrastructure, which limits coverage and keeps the price of monthly subscriptions high.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Inclusive Internet Index 2019 report ranks Indonesia 55 out of 100 countries surveyed in terms of availability, determined by quality and breadth of available infrastructure.1 Different sources provide varying penetration rates. In 2019, the social media management platform HootSuite placed Indonesia’s internet penetration rate at 56 percent, or approximately 150 million people.2 A 2018 survey conducted by the Indonesian Internet Service Provider Association (APJII) recorded a higher number, with 171 million people online.3 Although mobile phones remain the most popular means of access, mobile subscriptions decreased by 19 percent in 2019.4 The decline may be due to limits on how many active SIM cards users can possess and real name registration requirements (see C4).5

The first internet exchange point, the Indonesia Internet Exchange, was created by APJII to allow internet service providers (ISPs) to interconnect domestically.6 An independent internet exchange point, Open IXP, was launched in 2005.7

Government projects are underway to improve the internet infrastructure in Indonesia. In October 2019, after the coverage period, the government completed the 2,275-kilometer west, 2,995-kilometer central, and 6,878-kilometer east sections of the Palapa Ring project, a three-part network of broadband backbone infrastructure extending across the country.8 The project aims to expand service in rural areas.9

Following the completion of the Palapa Ring, the Ministry of Communication and Information (MCIT) and service providers will develop base transceiver stations (BTS) that could more effectively provide high-speed internet across the country.10 Additionally, to expedite the provision of access and infrastructure, particularly in areas the Palapa Ring cannot reach, the Telecommunication and Information Accessibility Agency (BAKTI) of the MCIT plans to rent five satellites, four of which are provided by foreign companies.11 The Nusantara Satu satellite launched in February 2019 and commenced operations in April.12 The four other satellites are expected to launch between the end of the coverage period and 2023. In addition to renting satellites, the government also began developing its own satellite, Satelit Indonesia Raya (SATRIA), in May 2019.

A2 0-3 pts
Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons? 13

A persistent geographic digital divide continued in Indonesia during the coverage period.

Despite increasing penetration rates and improved infrastructure, connectivity remains highly concentrated in the western part of the archipelago, particularly on the more urbanized island of Java. The disparity is evident in the information and communication technology (ICT) development index issued by the National Bureau of Statistics, in which five eastern provinces received the lowest rankings in 2017.1

According to official 2015 statistics, 70 percent of internet users are in urban areas.2 In 2018, the APJII survey reported that internet users in Sulawesi, Papua, and Maluku accounted for just 10.9 percent of the country’s total. By contrast, Java, one of the most urbanized provinces in the country, accounted for 55.7 percent of the user population.3 The MCIT has committed to allocating resources from the Universal Service Obligation Fund, which taxes ISPs in order to build the internet infrastructure in rural and other underserved areas, to subsidize internet access in the eastern part of the country.4

Affordable prepaid packages in underserved areas, such as Papua, Nusa Tenggara, and the Maluku Islands,5 are less available than in more populous areas. The Palapa Ring project may allow more ISPs to provide access in less-connected areas, which may lower prices for subscribers (see A1 and A4). 6

There is a slight gender divide in internet use.7 In 2017, according to the most recent data, women composed 48.6 percent of internet users, up from 47.5 percent in 2016; 51.4 percent of internet users were men.

A3 0-6 pts
Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity? 36

The government ordered restrictions on connectivity and the blocking of social media and communication platforms during the coverage period.

Following the presidential and parliamentary elections in April 2019, the government ordered ISPs to limit access to social media and communication platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp, between May 22 and May 24, ostensibly to prevent the spread of disinformation as postelection violence roiled the country.1

Since 2018, internet connectivity has been restricted during religious events in order to, among other things, “avoid and/or ward off hoaxes and negative content” online.2 In March 2018, connectivity was restricted in Bali when the island observed a Hindu holiday known as Nyepi, the “day of silence.” Authorities requested major mobile service providers to switch off internet service for the day, which spurred considerable debate on social media. The APJII, which was asked to switch off home internet connections, said it needed to study the request, leaving open the option of delaying enforcement until the following year’s Nyepi observance. The controversy led the MCIT to intervene, and the service suspension was ultimately applied only to mobile connections provided by major telecommunications companies; fixed-line connections remained active during Nyepi.3 In March 2019, the internet was again shut down for 24 hours in Bali for Nyepi.4 Only entities that provide public services, such as hospitals and the police, were exempt from the suspension.5

In August 2019, after the coverage period, connectivity was restricted in West Papua during protests against discrimination and for self-determination and independence.6 The MCIT reported that restrictions would continue “until the situation in Papua returned to being conducive and normal.”7 The internet was again limited in September 2019.8

Most BTS and other components of the telecommunications infrastructure in Indonesia are built by private providers. Therefore, the distribution of BTS largely reflects the market dominance of the major players, led by Telkomsel, a subsidiary of PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk—a majority state-owned company that dominates the telecommunications market and is heavily involved in infrastructure development. Internet infrastructure in Indonesia is otherwise decentralized, with several connections to the global internet.9

A4 0-6 pts
Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers? 46

Internet and mobile services are generally provided by large telecommunications companies, some of which are partially state owned. However, in recent years, opportunities for other entities to enter the market have grown.

In 2017, of the 500 telecommunications service licenses issued by the MCIT, 312 were ISP licenses.1 The APJII has criticized the high costs associated with obtaining an ISP license under the Law on Post and Telecommunication.2

The fixed-line market remains in an early stage of development, with about 4 percent penetration in 2016, while fixed-line broadband penetration stood at 1.7 percent.3 The lack of existing infrastructure requires ISPs to invest heavily in development, so only major companies are able to compete. As a result, Telkom Indonesia has dominated this market.4

As the mobile market approaches saturation, four providers serve roughly 90 percent of subscribers.5 As of 2016, market leader Telkomsel, Telkom Indonesia’s mobile subsidiary, reported 174 million subscribers.6 Its closest rival, Indosat Ooredo, reported 86 million subscribers as of 2016.7 Telkom Indonesia and Indosat Ooredoo are 51 percent and 14 percent state owned, respectively.8

The Palapa Ring project aims to bring more ISPs to rural areas by providing broadband backbone infrastructure (see A1 and A2). In February 2019, BAKTI signed a memorandum of understanding with the APJII and the Telecommunications Network Provider Association to utilize and commercialize the infrastructure.9 The MCIT also promised to offer low rental tariffs for providers to utilize the Palapa Ring.10

A5 0-4 pts
Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner? 24

Concerns have been raised about the independence of regulatory bodies, including the BRTI.1 Following a reorganization of some national regulatory bodies, it remains to be seen whether they will operate in a free, fair, and independent manner.

The Directorate General of Posts and Informatics Operations (PPI) and the Directorate General of Informatics Application (Aptika) oversee internet services under the MCIT. The PPI is responsible for regulating posts, telecommunications, and broadcasting. Its mandate includes supervising private telecommunications providers, regulating the allocation of frequencies for telecommunications and data communications, satellite orbits, and issuing ISP licenses. The MCIT restructured Aptika in 2018, reorganizing departments responsible for regulation, granting domain names for government websites, digital economy functions, and blocking and content removal.2

In 2003, a more independent regulator, BRTI, was established to ensure fair competition among telecommunications providers, resolve industry conflicts, and develop standards for service quality. As a result of the 2018 restructuring, BRTI’s authority was expanded to regulate not only infrastructure, but also issues relating to online platforms. Moreover, while BRTI previously lacked executive power and could only make recommendations—resulting in its failure to intervene in relevant fraud or corruption cases3 and limited effectiveness4—it now has the power to issue decisions and resolutions.5 This new authority has already had an effect; since being given more power, the BRTI has more stringently enforced SIM card registration requirements (see C4).

Since 2016, following the MCIT restructuring, MCIT officials have acted as both chair and vice chair of the BRTI.6 Otherwise, the composition of the BRTI in 2018 was fairly balanced, with a membership comprised of three government officials and six civil society representatives.7

B Limits on Content

Authorities continued to block or force the removal of “negative content” online, flouting principles such as transparency and democratic oversight. Services including TikTok, Netflix, and platforms serving the LGBT+ community were also subject to blocking, while Tumblr was unblocked in December 2018. Content manipulation and disinformation proliferated online around the April 2019 elections, often spread by paid commentators known as “buzzers.”

B1 0-6 pts
Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content? 36

Online content is frequently blocked for violating laws or social norms. Blocked content has included LGBT+ sites, pornography, gambling, fraud, false information, hate speech, material deemed immoral, and criticism of Islam.

In 2018, the MCIT reported that a total of 961,456 websites that contain “negative content” (which the government broadly defines as including pornography, defamation and slander, immorality, child abuse and violence, gambling, extortion, fraud, hoaxes and false information, and terrorism, among others) were blocked.1 Pornography remains one of the most commonly blocked categories of content, with over 100,000 sites blocked in 2018.2 Authorities also target “hate speech,”3 though police have sometimes interpreted the term to include hostile expression against public officials as well as attacks on minority groups.4

Communications, social media, and streaming platforms have also been blocked for negative content. In July 2018, the MCIT confirmed blocking eight domain name system (DNS) servers of the popular video-sharing platform TikTok due to “pornography, immorality, religious harassment, and others.”5 The platform was unblocked a week later after company leaders met with child protection officials and pledged to collaborate on removing negative content.6 In 2017, the MCIT blocked the LGBT+ dating app Grindr, and in January 2018, it blocked another gay dating app known as Blued.7

Since 2016, Netflix has been inaccessible to Telkomsel customers, despite the absence of a formal blocking notification from the MCIT.8 The ministry did not intervene when Telkom first blocked Netflix in early 2016, agreeing with the company’s position that Netflix was operating illegally due to its lack of proper licensing, and that it was exposing users to violence and pornographic content prohibited by law. Netflix has remained available via other ISPs.

In December 2018, the MCIT unblocked Tumblr after the platform agreed to remove “adult content” from its platform (see B2).9 In March 2018, eight of Tumblr’s DNS servers were blocked for not complying with an antipornography law (see C2).10

In August 2018, the MCIT also directed ISPs to implement Google’s SafeSearch feature to filter negative content such as pornography from Google’s search results.11 Certain YouTube videos and channels were temporarily restricted as well, although this problem was allegedly addressed and access to the videos restored.

The MCIT has confirmed that it blocks websites it perceives to spread “false news,”12 after claiming that it discovered hundreds of online “hoaxes” that proliferated during the coverage period, including misinformation surrounding the candidates for the April elections.13 One blocked website, for example, kpkonline.com, took its domain name from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and allegedly shared false information.14

Two websites originally registered as election monitors, jurdil2019.org and jurdil2019.net, were blocked by ISPs in April 2019, at the request of the Election Oversight Body, for allegedly lacking neutrality and reporting election results too quickly.15

Political content has also been subject to blocking. Academic and civil society researchers have found that numerous blogs and other sites carrying criticism of the government or Islam are blocked.16 Online news outlets and websites with information about the provinces of Papua and West Papua, where military forces have been accused of violently suppressing an independence movement, have been blocked in recent years.17

B2 0-4 pts
Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content? 24

The government routinely requires platforms and content hosts to remove what it considers negative content posted by users.

According to one study, the government collaborates with Google and Facebook to remove content relating to terrorism.1 The MCIT filed 8,903 requests with Facebook and Instagram to remove fraudulent content in 2018. Authorities have complained that platforms do not act quickly enough and have urged the companies to do more to address false information online.2

LGBT+ content continued to be subject to removal during the reporting period. In 2018, in response to an MCIT request, Google reportedly agreed to remove 73 apps with LGBT+ themes from its online store.3 Some of the platforms had previously been blocked by the MCIT.4

In February 2019, the MCIT stated that in 2018 it had blocked 2,334 pieces of content in 11 live chat apps, namely Bigo, Bigo Live, Cheez, Go Live, Gogo Live, Kwai Go, Live Me, Nonolive, Smule, TikTok, and Vigo, for negative content, including vulgar clothing and dancing, tattoos, and pornography.5 In January 2019, Bigo Live and the MCIT signed a joint agreement to use artificial intelligence (AI) to remove pornographic content.6 Bigo Live reported that it had blocked 200,000 pieces of negative content between January 2017 and February 2019.

Platforms that do not remove banned content risk being blocked entirely. For example, Tumblr was blocked in March 2018 (see B1). It was subsequently unblocked in December after removing ”adult content” from its platform.7

The growing pressure on companies to police content has resulted in censorship of political and social material, although the extent is difficult to assess. In February 2019, the Instagram account @alpantuni, which posted comics of LGBT+ Muslim people, became unavailable. While the MCIT initially claimed that Instagram removed the account after the ministry pressured the platform, Instagram denied complying.8 After a few days, the account was reportedly available again,9 and some reports allege that the account owner had initially deactivated it.10 In one documented example from 2016, the LINE messaging app removed emojis depicting LGBT+ themes from its Indonesian store at the MCIT’s request.11

B3 0-4 pts
Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process? 14

Laws and procedures regulating the government’s ability to restrict online content are largely not grounded in democratic principles. This deficiency is reflected in, for example, the government’s decision to restrict access to social media and communication platforms in May 2019.

Several government agencies are able to restrict online content under the Information and Electronic Transactions Law (ITE Law), provided that it is in the public interest and intended to maintain public order, without adequate transparency, oversight, and appeals processes (see C2).1 A separate statute provides a legal framework to block content considered pornographic,2 while a 2014 decree issued under the ITE Law expanded official powers to allow the blocking of negative content.3

Amendments to the ITE Law passed in 2016 further strengthened the legal foundation for blocking content.4 Under Article 40, the MCIT may now prevent access to online content directly, or order ISPs to do so.5 Separately, in 2017, a presidential decree established a new National Cyber and Encryption Agency (BSSN), which previously operated under the Ministry of Politics, Law, and Security, but now falls under the president.6 The agency also has the authority to filter and monitor online content.7

Moreover, Article 26 of the ITE Law has implications for content removal by intermediaries. Article 26 established a “right to be forgotten” for Indonesian citizens, largely modelled on a 2014 decision by the EU Court of Justice. Electronic system providers, including search engines such as Google, can be required to delete irrelevant information about an individual on request, but only when supported by a court order. Further details were expected in subsequent regulations, as there are concerns that Article 26 could hamper the public’s right to information.8

The precursor of the ITE Law, the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Regulation No. 19 of 2014 on Control of Websites Containing Negative Content, set the technical guidelines for blocking web content. However, it does not establish transparency and accountability in blocking procedures, which drew criticism from several civil society entities.9 Furthermore, this regulation had not yet been revised in accordance with the amended ITE Law by the end of the reporting period.10

In January 2018, the MCIT launched “Cyber Drone 9,” a crawler system driven by artificial intelligence (AI) tools, which is designed to proactively detect content violations. It replaces the Trust+ system, which relied on a passive database.11 A specialized task force of 58 people monitor the new system and review the material it flags for blocking; the blocking itself is still carried out by ISPs. Each ISP may employ its own software for blocking and thus may blacklist additional sites at its own discretion. This has increased the likelihood of arbitrary, inconsistent blocking, creating uncertainty for users seeking redress when content is wrongfully blocked.

The government’s decision to block major social media platforms and websites is usually only announced through the MCIT’s official press briefings. The briefings do not include which platforms and websites are blocked, but provide the total number restricted. Four multistakeholder panels established by the MCIT to respond to public complaints about arbitrary and nontransparent blocking completed their terms in 2015 and were not renewed.12 The government’s decision to restrict access to social media and communication platforms following the 2019 elections was criticized by local civil society groups (see A3). For example, the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network urged the government to be more transparent and narrow the scope of its decisions, as opposed to arbitrarily determining that such restrictions are justified based on vaguely defined “national security” concerns.13

Concerns among civil society have grown regarding the role of social media platforms in governing and removing online content.14 In February 2019, some media organizations proposed a bill that aims to address false information, hate speech, and violent propaganda on social media through a self-regulatory mechanism.15

B4 0-4 pts
Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship? 24

The government’s broad definition of negative content that can be blocked, coupled with increasing prosecutions for online activity, contribute to an environment of self-censorship among journalists and ordinary users alike.

During the coverage period, the government increasingly targeted users who shared misinformation online, even if they did so unwittingly, which contributed further to self-censorship online (see C3).1 Authorities have also increasingly targeted online discourse that is critical of the government by labeling it hate speech, which could potentially limit the willingness of journalists and users to criticize the government online.2

B5 0-4 pts
Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest? 24

Coordinated manipulation of online content by the government, its allies, and other political actors has distorted the information landscape. Manipulated content and disinformation, which has spread online since the 2014 presidential election, reached unprecedented levels during the coverage period, as political actors exploited the prevailing divisions and delegitimized the electoral process for political gain.1

Ahead of the April 2019 general elections, both presidential candidates reportedly hired online campaign strategists who mobilized paid commenters known as “buzzers” and automated accounts to spread political propaganda.2 One buzzer led a team with 250 fake accounts on major social media platforms, including Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Twitter. Spam accounts on Twitter manipulated and amplified hashtags that benefited presidential candidates. For example, 25 percent of tweets with the hashtag #JokowiLagi (Jokowi Again) between March 10 and April 10 were from automated tools.3

Disinformation continued to proliferate after election day as well, as social media posts questioned the legitimacy of the vote.4 Allegations of election fraud that spread online fueled protests in May, which contributed to real-world violence that was used as a justification by authorities to restrict social media and communication platforms (see A3).5

The manipulation of online content in 2017 and 2018 centered largely around exploiting religious and ethnic tensions. The Muslim Cyber Army (MCA)6 used automated, fraudulent, or hacked accounts to spread socially divisive messages and disinformation to undermine the government. Saracen,7 a smaller network known for spreading fake news that exacerbates religious and ethnic divisions, was largely motivated by financial gain. Such content is often disguised to resemble news articles or manipulated to make the target appear to be attacking Islam. The phenomenon was vividly illustrated during the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election, when protests sparked by online content contributed to the electoral loss and subsequent imprisonment of the city’s first Christian, ethnic Chinese governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok.8

In response to the increase in manipulated content online, over 20 local media outlets and journalist associations launched a fact-checking initiative—Cekfakta—in May 2018.9 The website allows users to fact-check information circulated online and through social media, including messaging apps and group chats.

B6 0-3 pts
Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online? 23

Users do not face significant economic and regulatory barriers to publishing content online. However, financial sustainability concerns and registration requirements aimed at combatting fake news have created some constraints.

Journalists from the provinces of Papua and West Papua often face economic constraints due to the ongoing antagonism between the government and indigenous independence movements.1 Toward the end of 2018, the news site West Papua Media announced that it was suspending operations because the outlet was unable to financially support the digital security of its journalists.2 The outlet has since commenced a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to resume operations.

In an attempt to combat fake news online, the Press Council, an independent body, created a barcode in 2017 designed to help readers identify reliable media outlets. Outlets must register with the council and undergo further online verification3 before being issued a bar code, which users can scan to view registration details. The initiative received mixed reactions from journalists.4 Some feared it could be used to marginalize unregistered outlets and noted that it benefited established institutions while potentially marginalizing newer competitors. Within weeks of the program’s introduction, 74 websites had been issued a bar code.5

B7 0-4 pts
Does the online information landscape lack diversity? 34

While Indonesia’s online information landscape remains diverse, concentrated ownership has restricted the variety of content in national and local media.

In 2018, approximately 43,300 media outlets operated online.1 However, the concentration of media ownership has undermined the diversity of viewpoints available to consumers. The owners of some major media outlets are actively involved in politics, contributing to increasingly partisan online news. At the local level, many online outlets have become extensions of certain political parties, hampering their credibility.

Social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram are now key sources of news, which has significantly eroded the market position of mainstream media.2 Indonesia also enjoys a thriving blogosphere. Members of the growing urban middle class are fervent users of social media and communication apps, and local blog and website hosting services are either free or inexpensive.

Tools to circumvent online censorship are largely accessible, and Indonesians are a global leader in the use of virtual private network (VPN) services.3 However, one test in 2017 found that three tools offering VPN services or anonymous browsing were subject to blocking.4

B8 0-6 pts
Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues? 46

With the urban middle class expanding, digital activism has become a popular way to organize support for social and political change. Platforms and websites used for mobilization were largely available during most of the coverage period. However, the blocking of social media platforms in May 2019, following the elections, limited Indonesians’ ability to mobilize online. In a worrying development after the coverage period, in August, the internet was disrupted in West Papua in an effort to limit demonstrations (see A3).1

During the coverage period, a national coalition of musicians launched a successful online petition against a restrictive bill to regulate the music industry.2 Introduced in February 2019, the bill would have prohibited music that is deemed pornographic, blasphemous, or includes “negative influences from foreign cultures or those that demean human dignity.” The bill sparked criticism from the coalition and thousands of Indonesian musicians for its potential to limit free expression, and the online petition against the bill garnered almost 270,000 signatures.3 Following protests, the parliament eventually dropped the bill.4

In 2017, a stand-up comedian known as Acho was reported to the police for allegedly using social media to defame the management of an apartment complex in Jakarta. He faced up to four years in prison. Internet users mobilized on Twitter and Instagram to urge the prosecutor’s office to drop the case, using the hashtag #AchoGakSalah (Acho Not Wrong).5 As the comedian’s online support grew, the complainant finally decided to withdraw the criminal report and resolved the case through negotiations.

C Violations of User Rights

People were targeted for their online activity during the coverage period; one digital journalist died in detention and others were doxed. Prosecutions under the ITE Law continued and several individuals were convicted and received prison sentences for defamation. Meanwhile, authorities set up a “war room” to conduct real-time monitoring of social media, sparking fears about growing surveillance of online activity.

C1 0-6 pts
Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence? 26

Freedom of expression, including online, is nominally protected in the constitution and other laws, but the right is frequently curtailed in practice. The Law on Human Rights, which was adopted shortly after the 1998 transition to democracy, guarantees freedom of expression and other fundamental rights, protections that were strengthened by the Second Amendment of the constitution passed in 2000. The Third Amendment guarantees freedom of opinion.1 The constitution also includes the right to obtain information and communicate freely.2 These rights are further protected by various laws and regulations.3 Indonesia ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2005.4

However, the amended constitution included language allowing the state to limit rights based on political, security, moral, and religious considerations.5 This wording provides policymakers with ample room for interpretation.6 The limited respect for the legal framework guaranteeing freedom of expression is exemplified by the frequency of prosecutions for online activity, as well as disruptions to internet connectivity and social media platforms.

  • 1. Constitution of 1945, Article 28E(3).
  • 2. Constitution of 1945, Articles 28F and 28G(1).
  • 3. Among others, “Law No. 39 of 1999 on Human Rights,” “Law No. 14 of 2008 on Freedom of Information,” and “Law No. 40 of 1999 on the Press.”
  • 4. The ICCPR was ratified through Law No. 12/2005. However, to date the government has yet to review and reform laws to comply with the covenant’s human rights standards.
  • 5. “In exercising his/her right and freedom, every person must submit to the restrictions stipulated in laws and regulations with the sole purpose to guarantee the recognition of and the respect for other persons’ rights and freedom and to fulfil fair demand in accordance with the considerations of morality, religious values, security, and public order in a democratic society.” Article 28 (J) of 1945 Constitution, as amended in 2000, Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2dmpFAa
  • 6. In 2009, the constitutional court generally affirmed that human rights are subject to limits as long as the limits are provided for in the law. See http://bit.ly/2cKuKPU. Other court decisions failed to narrow the definition of the broad considerations that provide for the state to introduce restrictions. See for example, http://bit.ly/2d5vOyO; and http://bit.ly/2cJLgVf.

C2 0-4 pts
Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities? 14

A number of laws impose criminal and civil liability for online activities. Provisions of the 2008 ITE Law have been used repeatedly to prosecute Indonesians for online expression. The law’s penalties for criminal defamation, hate speech, and inciting violence online are harsh compared with those established by the penal code for similar offline offenses.1 In 2016, amendments to the ITE Law introduced a number of important changes.2 Article 27(3) formally expanded the scope of defamation to include content published unintentionally or by third parties, for instance through the tagging of Facebook posts with another user’s name. Private chat messages can also be considered violations, as only one recipient is necessary for the offense of “transmitting” defamatory content.

The article also includes a broad clause covering “all acts other than distributing and transmitting” that make the content accessible to others, which made more users vulnerable to prosecution. The maximum penalties for online defamation were lowered from six years in prison to four, and from a fine of 1 billion rupiahs ($72,000) to 750 million rupiahs ($54,000), but these penalties remained harsher than most offline defamation sentences and fell short of advocates’ demands for decriminalization of the offense.3

Other laws infringe on user rights, and legal experts assert that they conflict with the constitution.4 The antipornography law introduced in 2008 contains a definition of pornography that can be loosely interpreted to ban many forms of artistic and cultural expression.5 The 2011 State Intelligence Law prescribes penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and large fines for revealing or disseminating vaguely defined “state secrets.”6 Some civil society groups challenged that law in the Constitutional Court, which rejected their petition in 2012.7 This legal framework provides authorities with a range of powers to penalize internet users, although they are not all regularly invoked in practice.

C3 0-6 pts
Are individuals penalized for online activities? 26

Users frequently face civil and criminal penalties for legitimate online activities. Revisions to the ITE Law passed in 2016 were designed to decrease the use of pretrial detention in online defamation cases. However, lengthy pretrial detentions continued to be documented during the coverage period, particularly in cases involving powerful complainants.

Safenet recorded at least 20 new cases under the ITE Law involving online expression from June 2018 to May 2019, with an additional 9 cases in July 2019 alone.1 As most cases are tried at the district court level, experts believe that the real number of prosecutions could be higher. Also during 2018, the national police reported arresting 122 people for hate speech on social media.2

In March 2019, a user was sentenced to 10 months in prison and fined 500 million rupiahs ($36,000) for allegedly sending four WhatsApp messages critical of a textile company. According to the accused, the messages were sent from a number that she no longer had access to in a language she does not speak.3 The company’s lawyer originally filed a complaint about the messages in 2017.

In January 2019, Augustinus Yolemal, a Papuan independence activist, was sentenced to one year in prison after being convicted of “disseminating hostility against the state ideology.”4 The charges stem from a Facebook video of Yolemal and his son singing slogans calling for the independence of Papua.

Muhammad Yusuf, a journalist with the online news outlet Kemajuan Rakyat, was arrested and charged with hate speech in April 2018, after he reported critically on a land dispute between farmers and a palm oil company owned by an influential local businessperson. In June 2018, Yusuf died in detention while awaiting trial (see C7).5

The government has continued its crackdown on minority communities, including members of the LGBT+ community. In October 2018, for example, two men who allegedly managed a Facebook account to facilitate sexual encounters between gay people were arrested and charged under the ITE Law.6 In November 2018, Bakor Pakem, a unit of the Attorney General’s Office, launched the Smart Pakem app, which allows users to report alleged instances of blasphemy for prosecution.7

Police have also cracked down on the widespread circulation of disinformation, prosecuting not only the creators of the content but also those unwittingly sharing it. For example, in November 2018, 16 people were charged for sharing false information about children being kidnapped and about the crash of Lion Air Flight 610.8

C4 0-4 pts
Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption? 34

There are some restrictions on anonymous communication, although it is not formally prohibited by law. Users can use encrypted services, although some MCIT statements and other regulations have revealed the government’s desire to gain backdoor access to encrypted communication and personal data.

Mobile phone users have nominally been required to register their phone numbers with the government by text message when they buy a phone since the MCIT introduced the requirement in 2005. This rule was widely ignored for years, but in 2017, the MCIT introduced a new regulation requiring SIM card users to register by submitting their national identity numbers and their family card registration numbers, limiting anonymity.1 As of late February 2018, failure to comply with this requirement could lead to the temporary blocking of data services to the unregistered SIM cards. If users fail to register within 15 days of the block’s initiation, the SIM cards can be permanently blocked from any telecommunications services.

In June 2019, after the coverage period, the MCIT announced its plan to require social media users to include their phone numbers when signing up for an account. Rudiantara, the minister of commmunications and information technology, has reportedly corresponded with a large social media platform about this plan.2 Also in June, the MIC reported that it was considering the regulation of VPN use through licenses.3

C5 0-6 pts
Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy? 26

Government surveillance of online activities limits the right to privacy. Although this right is constitutionally guaranteed, there is no specific law stipulating its protection. Article 40 of Law No. 46/1999 on Post and Telecommunication prohibits the interception of information transmitted through any form of telecommunications.1 However, there are at least 10 other laws, including the ITE Law, and 7 executive regulations, that allow certain government or law enforcement agencies to conduct surveillance, including electronically.2 These include the KPK, the National Narcotics Board, and the National Intelligence Service, among others. The laws do not clearly provide for the scope of interception, despite the fact that the Constitutional Court issued a decision in 2010 requiring that detailed interception procedures be regulated by law.3 The legal framework also fails to provide for judicial or parliamentary oversight of surveillance activity and remedies for those who allege abuse.

The 2016 amendments to the ITE Law revised some provisions governing interception in response to the Constitutional Court decision. The amendments introduced penalties for interception conducted outside the context of law enforcement, but indicated that further details concerning interception procedures would be addressed in future regulations.4

In May 2018, the parliament adopted amendments to the 2003 Eradication of Criminal Acts of Terrorism Law (CT Law) that give the authorities sweeping surveillance powers in the fight against terrorism, which is broadly defined under the legislation. Article 31 permits security officials to “intercept any conversation by telephone or other means of communication suspected of being used to prepare, plan, and commit a criminal act of terrorism.” Human Rights Watch and local civil society groups warned that the language could be interpreted to facilitate disproportionate surveillance that violates privacy rights.5

Authorities monitor social media platforms. In preparation for the elections, the MCIT created a “war room” in October 2018 that employed 70 engineers tasked with monitoring social media platforms in real time.6 For example, some engineers followed posts about the burning of a flag with an Islamic creed. The MCIT reported that it would “take action” if it found users violating the ITE Law (see C3). Previously, in January 2018, the BSSN reportedly began responding to cyber threats, which included a social media program (see B3).7

The use of spyware and other sophisticated surveillance tools has been linked to authorities. The Toronto-based group Citizen Lab reported in late 2015 that a number of government groups were “likely” using sophisticated FinFisher spyware, which collects data such as Skype audio, key logs, and screenshots.8 Swiss and British companies have also received licenses to export interception technology, particularly IMSI-catchers, to Indonesia.9 Additionally, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in October 2018 that Indonesian authorities purchased surveillance products from the Israeli-US company Verint to track LGBT+ rights activists and religious minorities.10

C6 0-6 pts
Are service providers and other technology companies required to aid the government in monitoring the communications of their users? 46

Various regulations require companies to store user data in Indonesia. While a 2012 regulation mandated data localization rules, a revised version reduces the types of data that are required to be stored in the country.

A government regulaton issued in 2000 requires telecommunications providers to retain records of customer usage for at least three months.1 Some companies have complied with law enforcement agencies’ requests for data.

Regulation No. 82 of 2012 Concerning Electronic System and Transaction Operation2 required electronic system providers that offer “public services” to build local data centers.3 A revised version of the law – Regulation No. 71, passed in October 2019 after the coverage period, recategorized different types of data, meaning that only some forms of data would be subjected to data localization requirements.4 This would include information related to government administration, defense, and security, such as users’ national identification numbers and data from intelligence agencies.5

A 2016 MCIT regulation6 stated that personal data must be encrypted if it is stored in an electronic system. However, a 2016 MCIT circular letter stated that over-the-top providers must allow legal interception for law enforcement purposes, raising concerns about the security of encryption.7

C7 0-5 pts
Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in retribution for their online activities? 25

Online journalists and users regularly face harassment and intimidation in retaliation for their online activities.

In July 2018, journalist Muhammad Yusuf of the local news site Kemajuan Rakyat, who was charged with defamation in April, died in detention (see C3).1 The National Commission on Human Rights concluded that his death was a result of the detention facility’s failure to provide proper healthcare and treatment to Yusuf after authorities were informed by his wife about his medical condition. Overcrowding in the facility also reportedly exacerbated Yusuf’s health issue.2

A number of journalists have been subjected to doxing and other forms of harassment after publishing online content.3 A detik.com journalist was doxed after including a quote from a prominent leader that urged people to vote against President Joko Widodo in his reporting. In November 2018, another detik.com photojournalist who was attending an Islamist rally was harassed and videoed by participants. The videos spread across social media, along with images of the journalist’s national identity and press cards. Also in 2018, at least one journalist with the news site Kumparan was doxed and harassed after reporting on Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, the chair of Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). Shihab’s supporters viewed the reporting as disrespectful because the title “Habib” was not used before his name. The harassment continued until the outlet apologized.

In addition to journalists, ordinary users and companies have also been targeted for their online activity. Some users have created hashtags to encourage others to uninstall apps of certain companies in response to employees’ online statements. Supporters of President Widodo began a #UnistallBukalapak campaign in February 2019 after the founder of the Bukalapak e-commerce company criticized the government’s research and development budget on Twitter.4 The #UninstallGojek campaign against the ride-hailing app Gojek began in October 2018 after an executive posted on social media that the company supported the LGBT+ community and inclusiveness in the workplace.5

C8 0-3 pts
Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack? 23

The websites of government entities, private companies, and civil society groups are subject to cyberattacks.

In February 2019, the website of the collaborative fact-checking initiative Cekfakta was hacked after a debate between the presidential candidates.1 The hackers defaced the site’s homepage and redirected traffic. In 2017, Suara Papua, a West Papua-based news site that has previously been blocked by the government, was subjected to a large-scale attack by automated accounts that overwhelmed the server and disabled the website.2

The BSSN reported 229.4 million actual and attempted cyberattacks in 2018. In 2017, Indonesia experienced 205 million cyberattacks, including through the ransomware WannaCry, which was used to attack two major hospitals in Jakarta.3

The National Election Commission reported in March 2019 that it faced cyberattacks on the voter database, claiming that some of them originated in China and Russia.4 However, the commission’s assertions have not been confirmed.

Country Facts

  • Freedom in the World Status

    Partly Free
  • Networks Restricted

    Yes
  • Websites Blocked

    Yes
  • Pro-government Commentators

    No
  • Users Arrested

    Yes

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