In preparation for Ramadan, which began at sundown on Thursday July 19, the Indonesian Communication and Information Ministry blocked over 1 million pornographic websites from local access. Most of the sites were hosted outside of the country, and the government estimates that there are over 2 billion websites providing pornographic content worldwide.
The Ministry says that the measures are being taken in accordance with Indonesia’s Electronic Information and Transaction Law and Telecommunications Law, which allows the government to block “negative content,” including pornography, libelous statements, and malware. This is the same law that forced Research in Motion to filter all pornographic content on Indonesian Blackberrys in January of last year.
Minister Titaful Sembiring said that the Ministry would block more sites during Ramadan, and that the sites would likely remain blocked after the Islamic holiday. He noted the Ministry’s limitations and requested that Indonesian citizens “actively report to the Communication and Information Minister if they find a link to negative website.”
In recent years the Indonesian government has increased and strictly enforced the censorship of both pornography and negative comments about Islam. Last year, Indonesia’s censorship laws led to a three and a half year jail sentence for a local pop star after two sex tapes were leaked online. Earlier this year, 31 year-old Alexander Aan, who declared himself an atheist over Facebook, was sentenced to five years in prison.
While censorship is not new to Indonesia, censorship of this scale is unprecedented. Historically, Indonesia has not had a comprehensive Internet filtering system in place. Instead, it relies on government censors, tips from individuals, and cooperation with ISPs and Internet cafes to effectuate the regulation of online content.