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.

13 Reasons Why: Is it a Perfect Portrayal of Teenager’s Issues or an Unrealistic Idea of Teenage Suicide?

You’ve probably already heard about the latest Netflix TV series called 13 Reasons Why, based on the fictional novel by Jay Asher. For those of you who haven’t watched it, 13 Reasons Why tells the story of a teenage girl’s suicide – a girl named Hannah Baker. She recorded tapes detailing the reasons behind her suicide and why she blames certain people for the decision to end her life. She then gets one of her friends, Tony, to pass these tapes on to every person who is mentioned in it, to ensure that they understand why she ended her own life. Don’t get me wrong, I get the whole idea of the series. They portray issues that adolescents face very well – issues such as bullying, gossiping, sexual assault, loneliness and the anxiety you experience from being at the centre of negative attention. In fact, 13 Reasons Why has been praised for its successful attempt to address diversity by starring multicultural actors and actresses, and by incorporating LGBTQ issues in their storyline. Bottom line is, the intention behind the series is very honourable and the message behind it is clear: be kind to others always because you never know what they have or are going through. You could save a life. No wonder viewers can relate to the series so much. It reminds us of those years filled with angst, innocence, and naivety; of all the struggles and fun we had in order to exist, survive, and hopefully grow to become fully-functioning adults. This reflection that I had after watching the whole series hit me with a realisation. What if the fifteen-year-old me was watching the series? What could I possibly be thinking? How would I feel after watching it? Imagine yourself in the shoes of a fifteen-year-old teenager who is going through a tough time in school. You are bullied; you feel trapped and lonely; you feel like you’ve tried everything you can to make it better, but nothing works. Then you watch the series, and suddenly the idea of suicide becomes a very real option. The series offers a common-sense approach to suicide. It gives you the impression that suicide is an opportunity to have the last laugh, which is unrealistic.   By deciding to commit suicide, you are choosing an end that is final. You don’t get a resolution after that, as the series suggested in some ways. After thinking about this, I realised that there are some dangerous flaws in the series. Regardless of its noble purpose, the series could send a completely different message to the teenagers watching the show because it offers the idea of suicide as a possible revenge fantasy. Hannah was bullied, assaulted, and lonely when she was alive, but she has a sudden grasp of power after her suicide. There’s almost this sense that the aftermath of suicide is romanticised in the series, which could give the wrong impression to the teenagers watching the show.   Not to mention the graphic detail of the suicide and sexual assault that are striking. I understand that this was done with the intention of making the audience feel uncomfortable because in reality, these things happen and they are horrible and tragic. Making these scenes as realistic as possible can move the audience emotionally and allow them to be more aware of the tragic nature of a suicide or sexual assault. However, once again, try to imagine watching these scenes through the eyes of a fifteen-year-old. For more vulnerable viewers, these scenes could leave them feeling distressed or even traumatised, especially for young viewers who are going through similar problems as Hannah. 13 Reasons Why is undeniably a heavy show. Parental guidance and age restrictions are definitely needed, even if they’ve already put trigger warnings in the beginning of each episode. Further discussions after watching the series should also be held by parents or guardians of its young and vulnerable viewers (for instance, those who suffer from depression or PTSD who can be triggered by the show’s content). I also think that the series lacks the insight to the importance of being alive, an important message of positivity for viewers who may be experiencing bullying or are having suicidal thoughts. Adolescence is a complex stage of life. It’s a transition from childhood to being an adult, so teenagers have to deal with a lot of new challenges and expectations from the people around them. They are expected to be independent and be responsible for their own actions, while at the same time having to obey their parents’ rules. Not to mention the fact that they’re on a mission to discover themselves, their identity, and their purpose in life. With many changes biologically and socially, this journey of finding themselves will not be easy. It will be an emotional rollercoaster ride with a lot of anger, confusion, anxiety, loneliness, misunderstanding – you name it. This could affect their behaviour to be more rebellious and dramatic. However, this is part of being an adolescent – part of the process of finding their place in the world. Understanding adolescents’ cognitive development is also essential. Their way of thinking begins to get more complex, developing from concrete thinking to abstract thinking. They begin to think systematically about logical reasoning, can form new ideas, and can consider different point of views. However, the transition occurs over time between 12 to 18 years of age. You can’t just expect them to develop the skill instantly. It requires a lot of process and practice. Ideally, teenagers should have access to lots of resources, such as education and forms of social support from family and friends to help them develop socially and cognitively. The resources would provide them with the knowledge and opportunity to discuss with those who are older regarding teenage issues. It would help them develop their problem-solving skill, critical thinking, and their decision-making process. They also need to have people who can provide them with emotional support when they fail or are having difficulties. This example is an ideal scenario for a teenager’s life, where they can have a space to grow with resources and support provided. Unfortunately, teenagers might not always have access to lots of resources, such as education, and emotional and social support which they desperately need from their family and peers. Let’s face it, the education system (especially in Indonesia) haven’t really taken into consideration the importance of mental health. Not to mention the parents’ need to understand these issues to guide their teenage children. As a result, many teenagers end up feeling lost and don’t know where to ask for such guidance, which could make them be more vulnerable to sensitive content like those shown in 13 Reasons Why. Given these points, regular, open discussions between teenagers and their parents (or other adults) regarding emotional and social issues that adolescents face are important. This helps to raise awareness of these issues, but also in addressing any confusion and improving their way of thinking. Teachers and parents especially also need to be able to support them emotionally and not underestimate their feelings, so that the school and home can be a safe space where they can grow and develop. Sometimes we forget what being a teenager is like. I can’t stress enough how important it is to show empathy towards youth. It’s easy for us to say, “Oh, come on, grow up!”. Well, they are growing up. At least they’re trying to be grown-ups. We just need to give them a chance.