President Joko Widodo has condemned social media users as he moves to contain the spread of 'fake news' on the internet. (JG Photo/Jurnasyanto Sukarno)

Indonesia's Internet Law Should Not Be Used to Condemn Free Speech: Observer


JANUARY 01, 2017

Jakarta. Afifuddin, a political observer from the State Islamic University in Jakarta said the government should not rush to condemn social media users as it moves to contain the spread of "fake news" on the internet.

The government should differentiate between critical members of the public and those who are intent only on spreading hate, slander and provocation, according to Afifuddin.

"The ITE [Electronic Information and Transaction] Law [Indonesia's internet law] is multi-interpretative, to say the least. You can almost use it to charge anybody, for anything," Afifuddin said in Jakarta on Saturday (31/12).

The government, he said, should carefully categorize hate speech, slander and provocation on social media. They should also define clearly what constitutes a plot against the government.

"We have to avoid targeting people who have genuine criticism for the government," Afifuddin said.

The importance of being media literate

Afifuddin said the government should also try to improve media literacy before it condemns people who use social media without much knowledge of how it works.

"The people need to be educated about media literacy. It's partly the government's fault if the public doesn't know what's on and what's not on in social media, what breaks the law and what doesn't," Afifuddin said.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo had condemned social media for inciting hatred and conflicts and wants ethical guidelines to be set up for internet speech.

At a cabinet meeting in Jakarta on Thursday (29/12), the president stressed again that despite its obvious advantages, the internet has made it harder for the government to control the flow of information.