Jakarta. The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology launched a web crawler, operated by a special team known as Cyber Drone 9, at the beginning of the year to actively seek out negative content on the internet and prevent Indonesians from accessing it.
A web crawler, sometimes called a "spider," is an internet bot – a software program that runs automated tasks on the World Wide Web – that systematically browses websites, typically for the purpose of indexing them.
Although the government sees the internet as a useful tool for economic development, it has become increasingly concerned over the impact uncontrolled access to information has on the world's largest Muslim-majority country.
The government has demonstrated an interest in increasing its control over offensive online content, particularly pertaining to pornography and radicalism.
Teguh Arifiyadi, head of investigations and litigation at the Communication Ministry, explained that the web crawler works similarly to common search engines on the internet, but it has the ability to find a greater volume of negative content while also operating much faster.
"Unlike common search engines ... our web crawler does not only gather information, but uses smart technology [such as machine learning] to analyze what content should be taken down or prioritized for filtering," Teguh told BeritaSatu.com on Monday (08/01).
He said the web crawler is able to sort negative content based on popularity and its potential to go viral. However, the results are first sent to a verification team, which will then take action based on the findings.
"For instance, if 10,000 items of negative content are found, not all of it will necessarily be blocked. It will be subject to human analysis, because it is still a machine running on software; it cannot perform a contextual analysis. But we will keep teaching the machine, because it uses artificial intelligence. The results will become more accurate with time, as the system continues to run," he said.
Teguh, who is also founder of the Indonesia Cyber Law Community, said negative content that will be targeted include anything considered violations of the country's laws and regulations, such as pornography, gambling, depictions of violence, radicalism and discrimination based on race and religion.
He added that the government will coordinate with internet service providers and social media platforms to block content that violate laws and regulations.
Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan, director general for informatics applications at the Communication Ministry, meanwhile said the web crawler is badly needed because manual search methods do not offer satisfactory results.
He said manual screening was based on community reports, requests from state institutions and manual search efforts by Trust Positive, a special team set up by the ministry.
"We estimate that there are around 30 million pornographic websites on the internet, while we have only been able to block 700,000. Only major websites have been blocked because it had to be done manually. Meanwhile, there are still many smaller websites, but it is hard to find them. By using this web crawler, the search for negative content on the internet can be faster," Semuel said.
He explained that the web crawler is operated by a special team of 58 people who form part of Cyber Drone 9, situated on the eighth floor of the ministry's headquarters in Jakarta.
He said the web-crawler software was procured in an open tender process, which started in August last year. The contract was awarded to state-owned telecommunications firm Industri Telekomunikasi Indonesia (INTI), based on its bid of Rp 198 billion ($13.8 million), which was adjusted to Rp 194 billion.
However, Semuel said the web crawler will not be able to completely eliminate all negative content on the internet because more such content is continuously being added. But he expressed hope that the system would help to block access to at least half of the 30 million pornographic websites within a year.
Nukman Luthfie, a social-media observer, meanwhile said improving digital literacy among the public may help reduce the adverse impact of negative content on the internet.
"In addition to the use of that machine, it is also important to educate people on how to use the internet more positively. It is just like driving in traffic. Despite the presence of police and traffic signs, drivers must still be educated," Nukman said.
He added that digital literacy education should not only be the responsibility of the Communication Ministry, but also other ministries.
"For example, the Ministry of Education and Culture should provide digital literacy education to students, starting from junior high school. By doing so, the public can learn to use the internet for more positive applications," Nukman said.