Indonesia plans automated system to flag contentious online material


Indonesia plans to launch in January a new automated system using 44 servers to help block websites displaying content such as pornography or extremist ideology, a communications ministry official said on Wednesday.

The world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation has stepped up scrutiny of online content following a surge of hoax stories and hate speech, as well as a controversial anti-pornography law pushed by Islamist parties.

The “crawling system” searches internet content and issues alerts when inappropriate material is found, said Semuel Pangerapan, a director general at the communications and informatics ministry.

The ministry would immediately block foreign-owned sites carrying such content, but applications such as messaging services would receive warnings first, he added.

This week, Indonesia threatened to block Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messenger service because of obscene GIF images provided by third parties on the service.

Tenor Inc., one of the GIF providers for WhatsApp, has been blocked in Indonesia.

The company has “implemented a fix” for the issue, a Tenor spokeswoman said on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Pangerapan said the ministry would monitor Tenor’s filter for the next few days before it lifts the ban.

Next week, the communications ministry will summon executives from other internet-based companies, such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and social media operator Twitter, he added.

The ministry would discuss content Indonesia does not allow to be circulated, he said.

Ministry data showed that Indonesia had blocked around 780,000 websites by the end of September, mostly those with pornographic content. Other blocked sites displayed material featuring violence, gambling and radicalism.

The government has also asked the public to report obscene online content.

“People need to be active to flag inappropriate content, not only on WhatsApp but also on Facebook and Twitter,” Pangerapan said.

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