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Google and YouTube to Help Indonesian Government Fight Porn? We Don’t Think So

Indonesia’s communications and information minister, Tifatul Sembiring, is really taking porn censorship very seriously as he now aims to recruit Google and its video sharing website YouTube into this war. Kompas cites ministry representative Azhar Hasyim as saying that they have talked with YouTube, but not yet with parent company Google. But would Google agree to help with this? Looking at its previous saga with the Chinese government regarding keyword censorship, the possibility is small.

The government plans to get the web giant to cooperate regarding porn-related keyword searches. The minister also said that the government has blocked around one million porn websites up until now, with around 100 extra sites blocked every day. Azhar then claimed there are now no more Indonesian domain-based porn websites. According to Tifatul, they have made good progress with clamping down on pornographic videos and films so far, but are still struggling with images. Just recently, the internet filtering service provider Nawala Nusantara announced its partnership with the Association of Indonesia Internet Service Providers regarding blocking sites with locally illegal content to help the government’s cause.

YouTube already does not allow porn. That is feasible because the content is hosted by YouTube, and YouTube has the rights to take its content down. But it is a different case entirely when restricting access to external information such as keyword censorship on Google, because the information on the internet isn’t owned by Google. Rachel Whetstone, the senior vice president of Google’s global communications and public policy, explained Google’s stance on censorship on the Google blog a few months ago:

At Google, we have a bias in favor of free expression—not just because it’s a key tenet of free societies, but also because more information generally means more choice, more power, more economic opportunity and more freedom for people. As Article 19 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

With regards safe browsing, the company also offers ‘Google’s safety tools’ to help users deal with inappropriate content issues such as porn. So if users want to protect themselves from pornographic content, they can opt to manually filter it themselves.

Remember though that in contrast to the vague headlines [1] offered by some other news websites, it hasn’t been announced whether YouTube/Google has agreed or has even talked to the government about this issue yet.

Interestingly, the collaboration plan isn’t the only intriguing claim that the Indonesian ministry made. The Jakarta Post cites the ministry as saying that there are “100 million” public complaints about internet pornography. The same ministry said that Indonesia only has around 40 million internet users a few weeks ago via Okezone. So if the claim is true, does that mean that every internet user in Indonesia has filed around two to three porn related complaints? Does that make sense somehow?

As mentioned earlier, this is not the first time a government has requested Google (if indeed the Indonesian government has requested) to remove or censor its content. Not so long ago we looked at Google’s transparency report on governments’ censorship/takedown requests. In that particular report, India stood out as a surprising offender.

[Source: Kompas and The Jakarta Post, picture: The Guardian]


  1. One of the headlines is “Google, YouTube to Join RI’s Anti-Porn Crusade” by The Jakarta Post. While the other page title is “Blokir Konten Porno, Pemerintah Gandeng Google dan YouTube” meaning “To block Porn Content, The Government Works with Google and YouTube” by Kompas  ↩.



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