Indonesia cracksdown on porn, homosexuality, blocks Tumblr

Indonesia cracksdown on porn, homosexuality, blocks Tumblr
PHOTO: AFP

A crackdown on pornography and homosexuality on the internet continues with the Communications and Information Technology Ministry saying on Tuesday that it will block 477 websites including Tumblr, a popular microblogging platform.

Tumblr gives users the ability to post multimedia and other content and is also widely used by artists and photographers to share their images. Explicit content is shared on Tumblr, although some of it is not intended to be pornographic material.

"Pornography is pornography," the ministry's director general for e-business, Azhar Hasyim, said on Tuesday.

"Even though I admit Tumblr is a platform for artists, the main violation is the pornographic content. It doesn't matter what the intention is. It breaks the rules," he said.

The government said the blocking is aimed at keeping Indonesian internet users away from pornography and its elements. The decision was taken after a censorship panel meeting at the ministry concluded on Tuesday that more sites display overt pornographic content.

Tumblr was included because of the staggering amount of pornographic material found and shared between users on the site, as well as the "vulgar" amount of visual content regarding homosexuality, said Azhar.

The ministry said the crackdown was not only driven by the ministry's censorship team, but was also in response to several complaints, even from the public, about the website's content.

Azhar said the ministry had sent a letter to Tumblr, which is based in the US, on Wednesday to ask the company to tone down and/or filter its content in order to make it suitable for the "positive-minded" Indonesian internet.

He added the government will block the site soon, even if Tumblr has not replied to the letter.

"If they agree to adjust to our needs, then the site will be reopened in Indonesia, but in the meantime we will block it because of the vulgar content that must be prevented from being shared. So we block them first, then we'll talk," Azhar said on Wednesday.

The order to all Indonesian internet service providers (ISP) to block Tumblr and the other 476 "pornographic" sites was issued on Wednesday.

Azhar said the sites would likely be blocked within two or three days.

In addition, nine more sites exhibiting culturally sensitive content related to ethnicity, religion, race and intergroup relations (SARA) will also be blocked.

Tumblr was established as a microblogging and social media site in 2007, offering a different blogging experience from other blog services at the time.

Users ranging from amateur and professional artists to public figures are also known to use the site: notably US President Barack Obama.

Aside from being utilized as a way to promote artistry, a number of small and medium-sized businesses in Indonesia also use Tumblr as a platform or as a method of promotion for their goods, similar to how Instagram is being utilized as an impromptu marketplace.

In 2013, the site was purchased by ailing technology giant Yahoo! and as of January 2016 it had around 555 million users worldwide, with a majority of them from the US.

Meanwhile, the ministry's censorship panel met with the Indonesian representatives of Twitter, LINE and BlackBerry on Wednesday to discuss the filtering and control of their content. The panel called for these services to "do more" in filtering pornographic, radical and "culturally sensitive" material from their content.

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