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Censorship in Indonesia: No Porn Please!

no porn please

Popular video sharing site Vimeo was blocked by Indonesia’s largest telco Telkomsel for a short while. And while it was still being blocked, the only reasonable answer that the company’s customer service and staff had was that Vimeo was somehow associated with the only thing that is being widely censored in Indonesia: porn.

As the third largest democratic country in the world, the news media here can still talk about anything that they want (albeit with a few ‘discouragements’), even when it is related to the first family’s dodgy tax returns. One of the reporters of the above article tweeted about his experience being contacted time and time again by the president’s staff. And The Jakarta Post office was heavily discouraged from publishing the article. But still, the government couldn’t do anything other than that, and the article was published, putting the president in the spotlight.

But as the second largest Muslim populated country in the world, it is still very sensitive about pornographic material. The ICT minister Tifatul Sembiring (being also a representative of an Islamic-oriented political party, the PKS) has vowed to curb porn in Indonesia. This is the same minister who has blocked more than one million porn sites, and was even able to force RIM (now known as Blackberry) to filter porn on its Blackberry handsets two years ago.

Just last week Tifatul also made a request to Twitter to see if the US-based company can censor porn-related tweets to protect Indonesian children from accessing those sites. Twitter’s new country-by-country censorship policy might be able to grant that request, but so far there is no update about the enquiry.

Getting past the censorship?

While porn sites are definitely being blocked by the Indonesian government, interestingly porn site Xvideos is sitting securely at the 48th spot in Indonesia according to Alexa’s rankings. There are indeed ways to overcome the censorship like changing the DNS address, using proxy servers, or using VPN services. And you could do those on your mobile phones too.

Though sometimes the government and telcos get it right concerning which sites should indeed be blocked under the nation’s anti-porn laws, there are times when they get it wrong. Vimeo is one such example – it’s an artistic site crucial for young filmmakers in the country to get global, creative exposure.

Indonesia is still a democratic country which respects your freedom of speech – but with a religious twist. But when an unfair block happens, young web users know that there are ways to still access whatever is being censored.

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