Internet freedom declined in 2017, even as access improved. The government introduced new measures to block content and punish online defamation, but failed to stem rampant manipulation and intimidation along ethnic and religious lines.
But measures that were introduced to curb these negative effects only undermined internet freedom further. A problematic Law on Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) was amended to empower officials to directly block prohibited electronic information, reducing oversight over a framework that already lacks transparency. Rather than reforming the law's defamation clause so that it fit international standards, it was expanded. Several individuals were placed in pretrial detention for lengthy periods as punishment for their online speech. A businessman was detained for privately asking a Facebook Messenger correspondent to repay a debt in 2017. In two other cases, women were held for several weeks each after being accused of defamation, and were only released after a public outcry.
An MCI circular letter issued in March 2016 had warned OTT providers to filter content (point 5.5.4) and censor information transmitted on their services in accordance with existing laws and regulations (point 5.5.3). The warning targeted providers of games, videos, music, animation, images, and other forms of content available via streaming and download, and said such providers must establish domestic business entities and allow legal interception for law enforcement purposes. Officials said further regulations would follow, but none had been issued in mid-2017.
Amendments to the ITE law passed in November 2017 also have implications for content removal by intermediaries. Article 26 established a "right to be forgotten" for Indonesian citizens along similar lines to a 2014 decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union. Electronic system providers will be required to delete irrelevant electronic information on request, but only when supported by a court order. Further details were expected in subsequent regulations. In the EU, content in the public interest is exempt, but critics of the system say companies are more likely to take down content than they are to dispute removal requests that could undermine free expression.
Indonesia otherwise enjoys a thriving blogosphere. The rapid increase of a tech-savvy urban middle class, fervent users of social media and communication apps, has fueled a diversity of applications and platforms. Local blog and website-hosting services are either free or inexpensive, and social media have provided an important alternative source of information. Tools to circumvent censorship are subject to some restrictions, though many others remain accessible. In one 2017 test, three tools offering virtual private network (VPN) services or anonymous browsing were subject to blocking.
Activists have also used online petitions to promote internet freedom, with some success during the reporting period. On October 2, 2016, a housewife was arrested and charged with online defamation by a local politician for a Facebook post she had written in March (see Prosecutions and Detentions for Online Activity). Using the hashtags #gara2UUITE and #saveYusniar, as well as an online petition with over 6,500 signatures, civil society groups mobilized to secure her release from pretrial detention in late November. A court acquitted her of all charges in April 2017. 2b1af7f3a8