Social media firms may face 'negative content' fines in Indonesia

Google, Facebook and Twitter are among the companies that will be invited to talks with the communications ministry.

     Indonesia is one of the top five markets globally for United States tech giants Facebook and Twitter [File: Leon Neal/Getty Images]
    Indonesia is one of the top five markets globally for United States tech giants Facebook and Twitter [File: Leon Neal/Getty Images]

    Indonesia will meet social media companies to discuss its plans to impose fines up to about $36,000 if they allow pornography, violence or other "negative" content on their platforms, a communications ministry official said.

    The Southeast Asian country aims to push firms to better monitor and delete content the authorities deem obscene, Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan, the ministry's director of information applications, said late on Tuesday.

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    He told the Reuters news agency that the ministry would issue a regulation governing the mechanism for fines following discussions with the companies. The fines could go into effect in 2021.

    "The point of this is that control of content will no longer be the job of the government," Pangerapan said by telephone, adding that he would invite companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter.

    Representatives of Twitter and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests by Reuters for comment.

    At an earlier news conference, he said "negative" content could include pornography or radicalism, and fines could range from 100 million rupiah ($7,160) to 500 million rupiah ($35,803).

    The move comes amid wider regional efforts by Southeast Asian governments to demand action from global tech giants on content regulation and tax policy.

    The stakes are high for governments, which are counting on the digital economy to drive growth amid domestic political tensions, and internet companies, which view Southeast Asia's social-media-loving population of 641 million as a key growth market.

    Indonesia is a top-five market globally for United States tech giants Facebook and Twitter. Authorities have succeeded in getting social media companies Telegram and TikTok to establish content monitoring teams in Indonesia after briefly banning them over what they consider to be "negative content".

    Communications ministry officials told Reuters in August they were working on a "three-letter system," meaning that if a platform fails to respond to three government requests to engage on an issue, then it would be banned from Indonesia.

    Indonesia has already blocked more than 70,000 websites displaying "negative content" such as pornography or hardline ideology in 2018 using a so-called "crawling system" that automatically searches internet content and issues alerts when inappropriate material is found.

    The country's internet economy is the largest and fastest-growing in the region, on track to exceed the $130bn mark by 2025, according to a report by Google, Singapore state investor Temasek Holdings and global business consultants Bain & Company. 

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency