Policing Technology in Indonesia

Internet Positif:  A website frequently encountered by Indonesians, especially men. The strikingly red background is symbolic of government bureaucracy that stands between people and a world of simple pleasures. To most people, it’s not really a problem because they grow accustomed to hacking around any digital restrictions, which explains why lots of Indonesian teenagers are highly skilled when it comes to this.  Yet, we tend to forget that the familiar red webpage is actually an impedance towards a fully developed creative industry. Now, I am going to steer clear from the over-debated issues on internet policing’s effects on democracy, or whether censorship is effective in correcting Indonesia’s moral attitudes (it never had been and would never be, as evidenced by the popularity of Maria Ozawa between male teenagers). Instead, let’s look at how censorship and regulatory uncertainty has impaired the growth of intellectual property based economy, and how the government should change its approach. It is rarely well-understood by the public how censorship impedes the growth of the creative economy. This is due to the rather inconspicuous nature of the relationship between the two. An illustration of this impediment would be how censorship enables the development of monopolies, such as Telkom blocking Netflix in order to advance its own iFlix service. (While officially Telkom bans Netflix due to inappropriate content, the giant telecommunications company ironically hints that it would lift the ban if Netflix is willing to exclusively partner with them). Indonesia does not have a net neutrality law, and does permit governmental monopoly over several sectors. However, it is questionable whether digital entertainment is covered under the clause of “important strategic industry”, a term used to describe whether an industry should be rightfully controlled by the government because it is contributing significantly to the national economy, such in the case of petrol and arms. Censorship also decreases the ability for individuals to create content. This not only limits what they can include in their content, but puts them at risk of getting sued if someone disagrees or feels offended.  Censorship is not only about nudity and pornography, but also blasphemy, insulation, and other offensive-based charges. One of the most recent notable cases of this issue occurred to Kaesang, the son of the current Indonesian president, who got reported for blasphemy. The charge, however, was soon dropped. The Indonesian laws regarding the freedom of speech are very vague, and judicial decision concerning the charges are heavily influenced by popular opinion rather than an objective legal process. It is also very muchly politically motivated, as exemplified by the arrest of many meme makers who criticised Setya Novanto. This legal uncertainty creates a hostile environment towards content creators, and thus impedes the development of an intellectual property industry. Nevertheless, the issue with censorship does not end with content creators needing to secure an insurance for the freedom of expression. These active users also need to know the stable availability of certain social media platforms before they invest the resources necessary to create good contents or services.  YouTubers, for example, need to know that YouTube would not be blocked by the government before they invest their time, effort and money into producing a video. Furthermore, social media marketing agencies need to know whether Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter would be available for Indonesian citizens if they were to consider these platforms as target markets. After all, digital content is expected to replace traditional media and become independent from the latter platform. Therefore, we need to make access to digital content economically viable and justifiable for people to invest in media content. Companies must be able to make sure that they will be able to profit from digitisation and not get their platform banned due to vague rules. For instance Gojek, Indonesia’s first startup to exceed one billion dollar in revenue, often receives threats of bans because it competes with  traditional transport providers. This demonstrates the fragility of Indonesia’s current digital industry due to regulatory uncertainty. Subsequently, fluctuating and uncertain censorship makes it hard to monetize creative content and intellectual property. Digital platforms and their materials need stability for monetization to happen. For example, the Indonesian Minister of Informations once made a threat to block YouTube threat despite stating otherwise a year before. This further demonstrates the government’s pre-existing uncertainty when it comes to dealing with censorships. As a result, profit-seeking companies are hesitant to sponsor YouTubers amidst rumors that  YouTube would be blocked. No exchange of goods or services means no monetisation, which in turn indicates no economic incentive that is supposedly the blood regulating and running through the veins of any industry. In order to develop the Indonesian digital industry, it is significant to provide an intellectual industry-friendly internet access for the public. This also necessitates a change to Indonesia’s current approach to censorship and digital services regulation. The most significant economic effect of  censorship is produced not by the actual practice of banning itself, but by the resulting uncertainty surrounding the stability of the online media platforms. What the government needs are clear-cut and simple rules. Here are some regulations that I am proposing: simplify censorship rules into the internationally recognised standards of no genitalia, and ensure the total freedom of expression when it comes to content as long as there is no pornography. This is for the sake of simplicity since many major digital platforms have already recognized these standards and implemented it according to their own measures. Secondly, the government should ease the implementation of digital business ideas and models by reconsidering and revising trade and services regulations in the transport industry. This includes, but not limited to, allowing individuals to operate as rideshare drivers and introducing security standards for digital payments. The government should also adopt a net neutrality rule to prevent conflict of interest from competing Internet Service Providers while improving telecommunications infrastructure to provide better and speedier networking system. The bottom line is, in order to develop a successful digital-creative industry, the government must iron out its policies into one that is simple and clear while cultivating a trustworthy legal atmosphere that is friendly to both content creators and investors. In this way, the government can also benefit from the transaction and asset flow within the national economy.


Click. Snap. Send. Instant posts of the latest trend. Snippets of existence Through a manifest of pixels. We carry in our hands The power to project A vague portrait. We show “Life”.   For creatures who crave purpose, We want a removal from it. Back then, If we truly desire something, We’d have to journey for it. And now, With swipes and clicks, We press to it. It renders efforts Effortless. Connection or Attention?   Growth is always encouraged. But how much is “too much”? Did technology flourish As flowers do? Or is it a blight of weeds Opposing our personal bloom? Have we evolved To consume with our eyes? Do we hunger for nourishment Or thirst for attention? Likes. Comments. Shares. Entertainment or Addiction?   We’ve stepped far in advancement By the tap of a button, We can let the world know What we want to show. But have we ever asked “why”? For yourself or the digital Divine? Who is truly in control? You? Or what you hold? Swipe up. Double tap. Hashtag.

A Black Mirror on Technology

“Digital technology has made us antisocial.” Beneath those words lay an image of several people within a room. Their necks tilted down, their heads drawn to something in their hands as they keep to themselves. Upon closer inspection, it’s clear that they are all gripped by their phones. We’ve all seen that image. An unshakable feeling of skepticism, fear, and paranoia about the advancement of digital technology has driven plenty of criticism recently. Doubts about their unreliability, lack of security, and proneness to error have been at the forefront of debates concerning the future. Even at social level, technology has been the subject of negative rumours. Allegations of its ability to decrease intelligence, seed unemployment, and pardon laziness often frequent the public sphere. Such fear of technology has been a recurring theme for quite a while. The dystopian genre in movies and TV shows is particularly compelling to the mass market. The popular anthology series Black Mirror, for instance, is controversial and self-conscious for its bold, yet realistic depiction of possible futures where our society relies heavily on technology. Westworld explores the idea of artificial intelligence (AI) becoming self-aware by portraying an entire world constructed and maintained by technology for human entertainment. Even Wall-E, a movie targeted towards children, presents a world where technology exists purely to serve humans, who have degenerated into lazy, obese creatures. The sense of wariness concerning technological progress is, after all, not completely unfounded. The rise of the digital age was not without issues. When Edward Snowden risked his life to expose state secrets about how the NSA was illegally surveilling its own citizens, people were shocked - and rightly so. Cybercrime has continued to increase and even facilitate the flow of criminal acts such as corporate theft, child abuse, human trafficking, etc. Even mobile apps and social media have subjected individuals to discrimination and abuse. All of these phenomena have fed into the public’s increasing sense of paranoia and insecurity about technology, as the dystopian movies mentioned above have aptly shown. In spite of the drawbacks, however, technology holds a lot of potential for the future. There have been just as many, if not more, positive depictions of technology as negative ones on the big screen. Marvel’s Iron Man film series and BBC’s Doctor Who TV show are just a few of many well-known examples that present the positive potential of technology. Even though the setting of Wall-E presents how technology has gone awry, the film still demonstrates the extent to which technology exemplifies human achievements. The humans in Wall-E all live within a spaceship equivalent of a yacht that is self-sufficient and is a habitable home for humans (even though its inhabitants, the humans, have devolved into incapacitated creatures). In fact, the conflicts arising within the film plot are often simply caused by the human abuse of technological power or the lack of caution people have when designing their inventions. Black Mirror episodes are a particularly strong example of this, as they show the audience how people are always behind the horrors that occur due to technological use for invasive, illogical purposes. If arguing about the state of the future seems too full of uncertainty, then look at the present! Not only has new technology helped various fields of research in their search for knowledge, they have also made life easier for humans in general. Crowdsourcing, for example, is a beneficial Internet activity that facilitates the gathering and distribution of creative ideas and mass information. This information sourcing model has been proven as important to raise awareness during times of crises, as illustrated by Facebook’s "Crisis Response" hub. Websites such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe have also been crucial in helping to raise funds for personal or charitable causes. Even celebrities are now able to help their fans through the use of social media, as demonstrated by Kendrick Lamar providing a disabled fan with a wheelchair and a wheelchair-accessible van. Even professional researchers have taken advantage of crowdsourcing to further their research. Sarah Parcak, an American archaeologist, has used crowdsourcing to assist in her research and enabled ordinary citizens to look for signs of hidden archaeological sites. Another positive benefit brought by technology also includes the use of online media as a source of income. Nowadays, anyone can go on the Internet and earn money from their creative pursuits, which not only includes Youtubers and bloggers, but also authors, digital illustrators, artists, aspiring entrepreneurs, and more. The Internet has enabled a global distribution of information and a level of interconnectivity that allows anyone to learn about anything they want while creating employment opportunities unrestricted by location. Technological innovation has been the driving force of research in medical and astronomical fields, and technology previously used only in one area is now being developed for use in others. Artificial intelligence (AI) and Virtual Reality (VR), for example, both started as the imaginations of the entertainment industry. Their functionality has now spread to assist with breakthroughs in the scientific, medical and educational industry. All of this is not to say that our fear and wariness of the digital era is unreasonable. There will always be risks and uncertainties associated with the future. Nevertheless, we cannot let it hinder our progress. Humans have survived so far in history by continually adapting to the circumstances and improving life for ourselves. Technology has been an enormous help for us in that respect, significantly speeding up academic, economic, social, and political progress to get us to where we are now. However there is still so much to be done, and technology remains an immense source of potential in helping us to overcome the unknown challenges we are bound to face. After all, if Black Mirror taught us anything, it’s that technology itself is not what’s bad; instead, it’s how we use it that matters.