Indonesia

Partly Free
48
100
A Obstacles to Access 14 25
B Limits on Content 17 35
C Violations of User Rights 17 40
Last Year's Score & Status
49 100 Partly Free
Scores are based on a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free)

header1 Overview

Internet freedom in Indonesia declined during the coverage period, due to a new regulation that imposes takedown and registration requirements on a broad range of technology companies. Internet access in Papua was again disrupted, with some disruptions coinciding with events related to Papuan independence. Meanwhile, critics of the government, journalists, and ordinary users continued to face criminal charges and harassment in retaliation for their online activity. Journalists, news outlets, and think tanks faced more technical attacks for their online reporting.

Indonesia has made impressive democratic gains since the fall of an authoritarian regime in 1998, establishing significant pluralism in politics and the media and undergoing multiple, peaceful transfers of power between parties. However, the country continues to struggle with challenges including systemic corruption; discrimination and violence against some marginalized groups; tensions related to the independence movement in the Papua region; and the politicized use of defamation and blasphemy laws. Authorities have responded to recent mass protests against the controversial 2020 omnibus law with violence and repression.

header2 Key Developments, June 1, 2020 - May 31, 2021

  • A broken sea cable in Papua led to internet disruptions beginning in April 2021, though disruptions were reported there on three separate occasions, coinciding with events that related to the Papuan independence movement (see A1 and A3).
  • In June 2020, the Jakarta State Administrative Court ruled that the government’s previous restrictions on internet access in Papua and West Papua violated the law. In their ruling, they further stated that the Election Information and Transactions (ITE) Law does not provide the government the authority to terminate internet access in its entirety (see A3).
  • The government released Ministerial Regulation Number 5/2020 on Private Electronic System Operators (MR 5/2020) in November 2020, which requires a broad range of technology companies to register with the MCIT, remove content based on requests from both state and nonstate entities, and provide law enforcement officials “direct access” to their systems and users’ personal data (see B2, B6, and C6).
  • Online journalists and individual users continued to face offline violence as well as online harassment, in the form of doxing and death threats, for their online activity (see C7).
  • Technical attacks against civil servants, journalists, and civil society groups occurred during the coverage period. In August 2020, several media outlets, including Tempo, Tirto.id, and Centre for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives were hacked after posting articles criticizing the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (see C8).

A Obstacles to Access

A1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections? 3.003 6.006

Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 to correct for a methodology error in one of the sources used to calculate internet penetration rates. This score change does not necessarily reflect changes in infrastructural limits to internet access.

Internet penetration in Indonesia has steadily increased, driven largely by rapid growth in the number of mobile subscriptions. The country’s low number of fixed-line subscribers stems from the lack of infrastructure, which limits coverage and keeps the price of monthly subscriptions high.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Inclusive Internet Index 2021 report ranked Indonesia 66 out of 120 countries surveyed in terms of availability, as determined by quality and breadth of available infrastructure.1 In 2021, the social media management platform HootSuite and Indonesian Internet Service Provider Association (APJII) confirmed that Indonesia’s internet penetration rate was 73.7 percent.2 Mobile phones remain the most popular means for people to access the internet, with over 345.3 million subscriptions in 2021, an increase of 1.2 percent since 2020.3

Government projects are underway to improve the internet infrastructure in Indonesia, especially in rural areas. 4 Although the main Palapa Ring project—a three-part network of broadband backbone infrastructure extending thousands of kilometers across the country—was completed in October 2019, funding constraints have limited the development of further base transceiver stations (BTS) necessary to support the project.5

To further expedite the provision of high-speed internet to the public, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) has formed public-private partnerships in February 2021 to support the development of BTS in villages.6 The Telecommunication and Information Accessibility Agency (BAKTI) of the MCIT also has plans to rent and develop satellites.7

People in Indonesia were more severely impacted by low internet penetration rates and poor infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. The limited availability of electricity and connectivity in more than 21,000 villages has hindered online home learning activities for students in rural areas.8

Beginning in April 2021, internet users in Jayapura, the capital of Papua, reported experiencing issues accessing the internet. A month later in May, the Minister of communication and information and the CEO of PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk (Telkom Indonesia) announced that a broken cable—the Sulawesi Maluku Papua Cable System (SMPCS)—had led to disruption issues in three Papua regencies: Jayapura, Keerom, and Sari. In June 2021, users reported that the internet connection in Jayapura was partially restored.9

A2 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons? 1.001 3.003

A persistent geographic digital divide continued in Indonesia during the coverage period.

Despite increasing penetration rates and improved infrastructure, connectivity remains highly concentrated in the western part of the archipelago, particularly on the more urbanized island of Java. The disparity is evident in the information and communication technology (ICT) development index issued by the National Bureau of Statistics, in which the country’s five eastern provinces received the lowest rankings in 2019.1

In 2020, an APJII survey found that internet users in the rural areas of Sulawesi, Papua, and Maluku accounted for just 10 percent of the country’s total internet users.2 The MCIT has committed to allocating resources from the Universal Service Obligation Fund, which taxes internet service providers (ISPs) in order to build internet infrastructure in rural and other underserved areas and subsidize internet access in eastern Indonesia.3

Some of the government’s internet infrastructure projects seek to lessen the geographical digital divide (see A1). However, though the Palapa Ring project intended to expand access, for example,4 the persistent lack of connectivity in rural areas despite the project’s completion has prompted calls for the implementation of BTS and other internet infrastructure.5

Disparities in access also result from the high costs of internet subscription plans. Affordable prepaid packages are less available in underserved areas, such as Papua, Nusa Tenggara, and the Maluku Islands, than they are in more populous areas like Java, where the service provider Telkomsel has less of a monopoly. 6 During the COVID-19 pandemic, students, parents, and lecturers from both underserved and populous areas of Indonesia had trouble affording data plans to support online learning and working. 7

There is a slight gender divide in internet use.8 According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in 2019, 46.87 percent of internet users were women, a slight increase from 46.83 in 2018 and 46.48 in 2017.9

A3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity? 4.004 6.006

Score Change: The score improved from 3 to 4 because the government imposed fewer restrictions to internet access compared to the previous year.

Internet connectivity has been restricted during religious events in order to “avoid and/or ward off hoaxes and negative content” online.1 In 2021, the government restricted smartphone data packages and video streaming in Bali during the Hindu festival known as Nyepi, the “day of silence.” Fixed-line connections, however, were not restricted. 2 The government had also suspended mobile connections during Nyepi from 2018 to 2020.3 In those years, only entities that provide public services, such as hospitals and the police, were exempt from the suspension.4

Connectivity was unreliable in the Papua region at several times during the coverage period. Users reportedly experienced issues accessing the internet during the one-year anniversary of the Papuan independence protests in August 2020, during a United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council Meeting in October 2020 that discussed Papua, and during a December 2020 celebration of West Papuan independence from the Dutch colonies.5 Moreover, cell phone signals were reportedly turned off in Nduga and Maybrat in July 2020, coinciding with the intensification of a conflict occurring in those regencies. The Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) and some other members of civil society suspected the disruptions may have been deliberate and ordered by government authorities, although neither state officials nor telecommunications providers have confirmed this.

The government has ordered restrictions on connectivity and the blocking of social media and communications platforms in previous coverage periods. During protests in the Papua region in August 2019, which led to violence and the killing of several protesters, the internet was throttled for at least seven hours on August 19, and again beginning on August 21.6 The MCIT reported that restrictions would continue “until the situation in Papua returned to being conducive and normal;”7 restrictions were partially lifted on September 4, although many areas still experienced connectivity restrictions for a month thereafter. The internet was reportedly restored in all areas by the end of September.8

In November 2019, several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) collaborating as The Press Freedom Defender Team sued the government over the August and September restrictions.9 In June 2020, the Jakarta State Administrative Court ruled that the government’s restrictions in Papua and West Papua violated the law.10 The court also ruled that the Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) law should only be used to restrict online information or documents that are “unlawful,” and it does not provide authority to terminate access in its entirety.

Following the presidential and parliamentary elections in April 2019, the government ordered ISPs to limit access to social media and communication platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp, between May 22 and May 24, ostensibly to prevent the spread of disinformation, as postelection violence roiled the country.11

Most BTS and other components of ICT infrastructure in Indonesia are built by private providers. Therefore, the distribution of BTS largely reflects the market dominance of the major players, led by Telkomsel, a subsidiary of Telkom Indonesia—a majority state-owned company that dominates the telecommunications market and is heavily involved in infrastructure development. Internet infrastructure in Indonesia is otherwise decentralized, with several connections to the global internet.12

The first internet exchange point, the Indonesia Internet Exchange, was created by APJII to allow internet service providers (ISPs) to interconnect domestically. An independent internet exchange point, Open IXP, was launched in 2005.13

A4 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers? 4.004 6.006

Internet and mobile services are generally provided by large telecommunications companies, some of which are partially state owned. However, in recent years, opportunities for other entities to enter the market have grown.

In 2020, of the 2,458 telecommunications service licenses that issued by the MCIT, 512 were ISP licenses.1 APJII has criticized the high cost of obtaining an ISP license under the Law on Post and Telecommunication.2

The fixed-line market remains at an early stage of development, with only 12 percent Indonesia’s 83,218 villages served by fixed-line broadband.3 The lack of existing infrastructure requires ISPs to invest heavily in development, so only major companies are able to compete. As a result, Telkom Indonesia has dominated this market.4

As the mobile market approaches saturation, four providers serve roughly 90 percent of subscribers.5 As reported in 2020, market leader Telkomsel, Telkom Indonesia’s mobile subsidiary, had 171 million subscribers.6 Its closest rival, Indosat Ooredo, reported 59 million subscribers.7 Telkom Indonesia and Indosat Ooredoo are 51 percent and 14 percent owned by the state, respectively.8

A5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner? 2.002 4.004

Concerns have been raised about the independence of the MCIT as a regulatory body, following the decision to dissolve the Indonesian Telecommunication Regulatory Body (BRTI).

The BRTI, a more independent regulator, was established in 2003 to ensure fair competition among telecommunications providers, resolve industry conflicts, and develop standards for service quality. In 2018, BRTI’s authority was expanded to regulate not only infrastructure, but also issues relating to online platforms. In November 2020, the government decided to dissolve the BRTI to streamline the bureaucracy. 1 By October 2021, the MCIT is expected to assume BRTI’s full set of responsibilities.2

The Directorate General of Posts and Informatics Operations (PPI) and the Directorate General of Informatics Application (Aptika) oversee internet services regulation under the MCIT. The PPI is responsible for regulating posts, telecommunications, and broadcasting, and its mandate includes supervising private telecommunications providers, regulating the allocation of frequencies for telecommunications and data communications, and issuing ISP licenses. The MCIT restructured Aptika in 2018, reorganizing departments responsible for regulation, granting domain names for government websites, digital economy functions, and blocking and content removal.3

B Limits on Content

B1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 3.003 6.006

Websites are frequently blocked for hosting what the government defines as negative content, a broad term that is used to describe content that is pornographic or defamatory, as well as content that violates social norms or is deemed immoral. 1

In June 2021, the Financial Services Authority (OJK) stated that it had blocked 3,193 illegal financial technology lenders.2 As of March 2021, the MCIT had blocked Snack Video—a competitor to TikTok—Tik Tok Cash, and VTube because they were operating without OJK licensing. 3 The MCIT, in cooperation with the Commodity Futures Trading Regulatory Agency (BAPPEBTI), and domain name registrars blocked 68 illegal commodity-futures trading-sites in January 2021.4 Additionally, pornography remains the most commonly blocked category of content, with nearly 1,069,000 sites blocked in 2020.5

The MCIT blocked the LGBT+ dating apps Grindr and Blued, in 2017 and in January 2018, respectively.6 MCIT confirmed that these apps were still blocked in November 2020.7

Between 2016 and July 2020, Netflix was inaccessible to Telkom customers, despite the absence of a formal blocking notification from the MCIT.8 The ministry did not intervene when Telkom first blocked Netflix in early 2016, agreeing with the Telkom’s position that Netflix was operating illegally because it lacked proper licensing and exposed users to violent and pornographic content. Netflix remained available via other ISPs. In January 2020, the Indonesian Consumers Protection Foundation urged the MCIT to force Netflix to remove negative content from its platform or otherwise block it.9 In July 2020, Telkom unblocked Netflix after the platform agreed to fulfill some regulations, particularly regarding content and takedown requests.10

Two websites originally registered as election monitors, jurdil2019.org and jurdil2019.net, were blocked by ISPs in April 2019 at the request of the Election Oversight Body for allegedly lacking neutrality and reporting election results too quickly.11 In July 2018, the MCIT confirmed blocking eight domain name system (DNS) servers of the popular video-sharing platform TikTok due to “pornography, immorality, religious harassment, and [other illegal content].”12 The platform was unblocked a week later after company leaders met with officials from the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) and pledged to collaborate on removing negative content.13

Political content has also been subject to blocking. Academic and civil society researchers have found that numerous blogs and other sites carrying criticism of the government or Islam are blocked.14 Online news outlets and websites with information about the provinces of Papua and West Papua, where military forces have been accused of violently suppressing an independence movement, have been blocked in recent years.15

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 2.002 4.004

The government routinely requires platforms and content hosts to remove negative content posted by users.

In April 2021, the MCIT requested that YouTube block 20 videos uploaded by Joseph Paul Zhang, who proclaimed he was the 26th prophet of Islam. The MCIT used Ministerial Regulation No. 5 as one of the legal references to justify the takedown (see B3).1 In December 2020, the MCIT also requested YouTube take down a parody song of Indonesia Raya national, considering the song to be an “insult” and hate speech towards Indonesia. The two minors who made the video were later arrested (see C3).2 In August 2019, YouTube reportedly restricted a satirical video about Papua on the request of the Indonesian government.3

In September 2020, the MCIT removed 233 pieces of content on digital platforms relaying false information on regional elections in December.4 As of April 2021, 20,453 pieces of content related to terrorism and radicalism on social media platforms had been taken down. 5 The government also requested that social media platforms take down 1,094 pieces of misinformation related to COVID-19 in April 2021. 6 For example, the MCIT requested the removal of social media posts that falsely claimed that President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) had contracted the coronavirus and that he gave land ownership and money to the Chinese government in exchange for a COVID-19 vaccine.7 In August 2020, MCIT reported that of the 1,921 hoaxes related to COVID-19 were found on various social media platforms, 1,665 were taken down.8

The MCIT has demanded that some apps be removed entirely from app stores, or that certain pieces of content be blocked. In March 2021, the illegal Snack Video app was removed from Google’s app store on the request of the MCIT (see B1).9 In January 2020, the ministry announced that it had blocked 1,085 fintech-specific apps from the Google app store in 2019, and 1,356 similar apps from other app stores.10

In February 2021, the Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim) of the Indonesian Police (Polri) launched a Virtual Police program to monitor social media and chat apps for hoaxes and incitement. As of April 2021, the program has reportedly sent warnings to remove content to 200 social media accounts that post hate speech content and potentially infringe on Article 28(2) of ITE Law.11 A civil society organization, Kontras, reported that the Virtual Police mostly directed their warnings towards users that actively criticize the government, and users immediately deleted their content that was flagged.12

Platforms that do not remove banned content risk being blocked entirely. For example, Tumblr was blocked in March 2018; it was subsequently unblocked in December after removing “adult content.”13

Ordinary users have also removed content under pressure from the MCIT. In August 2019, local content creator Kimi Hime removed their YouTube and Instagram content deemed obscene by the MCIT ahead of an expected meeting with agency officials.14

In the second half of 2020, TikTok stated that it removed more than 89 million videos, of which around 3.8 million videos were from Indonesia.15 Reuters reported that between 2018 and mid-2020 the Chinese company ByteDance censored Indonesian content on its news aggregator BaBe app that expressed “negative” information about the Chinese government.16

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process? 1.001 4.004

Regulations that grant the government the ability to restrict online content are largely not grounded in detailed democratic principles and procedures.

Amendments from 2016 to the ITE Law strengthened the legal foundation for blocking content and limiting internet access.1 Under Article 40 of the amended ITE Law passed in 2016, the MCIT can directly prevent access to online content, or order ISPs to do so.2 Article 26 of the amended law also established a “right to be forgotten” for Indonesian citizens, whereby electronic system providers, such as Google, are required to delete irrelevant information about an individual on request of the MCIT. The MCIT, however, needs to provide a court order. There are concerns that Article 26 could hamper the public’s right to information.3

A 2014 decree under the ITE Law expanded official powers to allow the blocking of negative content on websites.4 A separate statute provides a legal framework to block content considered pornographic.5 The precursor of the amended ITE Law, MCIT Regulation No. 19 of 2014 on Control of Websites Containing Negative Content, set technical guidelines for blocking web content. However, it does not establish transparency and accountability in blocking procedures, which drew criticism from several civil society entities.6

The Ministerial Regulation Number 5/ 2020 on Private Electronic System Operators (MR 5/2020) went into effect in November 2020 (see C6).7 MR 5/2020 requires private electronic system operators (ESOs)—defined as any foreign or domestic entity that operates electronic systems for Indonesian users—to ensure that their electronic system does not contain or facilitate prohibited content, broadly defined as any content that violates domestic law, creates community anxiety, or disturbs public order. After receiving a notice from the MCIT to remove prohibited content, ESOs have four hours in “urgent” situations, or 24 hours to comply. ESOs that fail to remove prohibited content will be fined or blocked (see B6).

While the above laws serve as general guidelines and principles to restrict internet access and online content, no regulations define the criteria for what is considered prohibited online content.8

The MCIT shares the total number of websites restricted through official press briefings but does not provide further details on which sites are blocked and why. Four multistakeholder panels, established by the MCIT to respond to public complaints about arbitrary and nontransparent blocking, completed their terms in 2015 and were not renewed.9

Besides the MCIT, several other government agencies restrict online content under the ITE Law, provided that it is in the public interest and intended to maintain public order.10 The National Cyber and Encryption Agency (BSSN), which was established in 2017 and is under the purview of the president, also has the authority to filter and monitor online content.11

In May 2020, two private television stations, iNews and RCTI, filed a judicial review of the Broadcasting Law to the Constitutional Court, requesting that the court reformulate the law to also regulate competitor streaming platforms, such as Netflix and YouTube.12 In January 2021, the court rejected the lawsuit.13 In March 2021, the parliament designated an amended broadcasting bill as part of its 2021 legislative priorities, to regulate the implementation of television streaming platforms. As of June 2021, the bill was still under discussion, though representatives in Parliament claimed they expect to finalize the bill by the end of the year.14

In July 2020, the MCIT stated that it planned to purchase more sophisticated technology to block more categories of negative content and websites.15 This followed a January 2020 announcement that the MCIT was coordinating with 16 ministries and governmental institutions to “optimize” its response to negative content online.16

In January 2018, the MCIT launched “Cyber Drone 9,” a crawler system driven by artificial intelligence (AI) tools that is designed to proactively detect content violations. A specialized task force monitors the new system and reviews the material it flags for blocking; the blocking itself is still carried out by ISPs. Each ISP may employ its own software for blocking and thus may deny additional sites at its own discretion.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship? 2.002 4.004

The government’s broad definition of negative content that can be blocked or removed and its intensifying pursuit of legal actions for online activity contribute to an environment of self-censorship among journalists and ordinary users alike.1 Increased online harassment, as well as technical attacks against journalists, activists, and online news outlets further this environment of caution (see C7 and C8). Civil society organizations have also raised concerns that the Virtual Police program will drive users to increasingly practice self-censorship (see B2).2

Authorities have also increasingly targeted online discourse that is critical of the government by labelling it hate speech, which could potentially limit the willingness of journalists and users to criticize the government online.3

B5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest? 1.001 4.004

Coordinated manipulation of online content by the government, its allies, and other political actors has distorted the information landscape. Manipulated content and disinformation, which has spread online since the 2014 presidential election, continues to proliferate, particularly during moments of political tension or emergencies, such as protests and the COVID-19 pandemic.1

Reports from the Oxford Internet Institute released in 2019 and 2020 identified Indonesia as having teams of paid commenters, called “buzzers,” as well as automated accounts manipulate information on social media on behalf of political parties and private contractors.2 The report found evidence that such teams work to support preferred messaging, attack their opposition, and create division. The founder of Drone Emprit,3 a social network analytics company, also stated that buzzers contribute largely to trending topics on political issues, such as hashtags used during a popular student demonstration in September 2019.4

National think tank Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) reported the government budgeted 90 billion rupiahs ($6.4 million) to hire buzzers to promote the government’s policies.5 During the initial spread of COVID-19 in March 2020, progovernment buzzers reportedly were mobilized to spread online content criticizing the plans of Anies Baswedan, the Jakarta Governor and an opposition figure, to lockdown the capital.6

In June 2020, three fake accounts, seemingly operated by bots, accused comedian Bintang Emon for using drugs after he criticized the court for sentencing an attacker of a member of the Corruption Eradication Commission to one year in prison.7 In October 2019, researchers at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute discovered a network of bots originating in Jakarata that carried out a campaign of progovernment propaganda in Papua across multiple social media platforms and websites.8 Facebook and Twitter closed the accounts.9

Buzzers and bots have also been used to intervene in elections. During the April 2019 general elections, political actors exploited prevailing divisions and delegitimized the electoral process for political gain.10 Both presidential candidates reportedly hired online campaign strategists who mobilized buzzers and automated accounts to spread political propaganda.11

A network of online news sites has also been utilized by political actors to spread propaganda. In January 2020, Reuters journalists discovered that the military was operating and funding a network of 10 online news sites that publish progovernment propaganda and criticize government critics and human rights advocates.12 Among their tasks was to mobilize support for the government’s response to the 2019 protests in the Papua region, including for the state’s use of violence (see A3 and B8).

In response to the increase in manipulated content online, over 20 local media outlets and journalist associations launched a fact-checking initiative, Cekfakta, in May 2018.13 The website allows users to fact-check information circulated online and through social media, including messaging apps and group chats.

B6 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online? 1.001 3.003

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 because a November 2020 regulation imposes onerous obligations on private electronic service operators, namely that they must register with the MCIT, in order to operate and serve as a space for publication in the country.

Users do not face significant economic and regulatory barriers to publishing content online. However, financial sustainability concerns and registration requirements aimed at combatting “prohibited online content” have created constraints to publish.

The regulation MR 5/2020 requires all ESOs register their systems with the MCIT. If ESOs fail to register by the end of 2021, they will be blocked (see B3).1 The law also requires ESOs to appoint a local liaison. The regulation allows the government to revoke e-providers and cloud computing providers’ registration and licenses to operate, if they do not provide electronic information, data, and access to the government and law enforcement agencies for monitoring and law enforcement purposes (see C6).

Journalists from the provinces of Papua and West Papua often face economic constraints.2 Toward the end of 2018, the news site West Papua Media announced that it was suspending operations because the outlet was unable to financially support the digital security of its journalists.3 The news site resumed operations in November 2020 after launching crowdfunding campaigns, which continued during the coverage period.4

To combat fake news online, the Press Council, an independent body, created a barcode in 2017 designed to help readers identify reliable media outlets. From January to November 2020, the Council had verified 260 media outlets.5

B7 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability? 3.003 4.004

While Indonesia’s online information landscape remains diverse, concentrated ownership has restricted the variety of content in national and local media.

In 2019, approximately 47,000 media outlets operated online.1 However, the concentration of media ownership has undermined the diversity of viewpoints available to consumers. The owners of some major media outlets are actively involved in politics, contributing to increasingly partisan online news. At the local level, many online outlets have become extensions of certain political parties, hampering their credibility.

Social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram are now key sources of news, which has significantly eroded the market position of mainstream media.2 Indonesia also enjoys a thriving blogosphere. Members of the growing urban middle class are fervent users of social media and communication apps, and local blog and website hosting services are either free or inexpensive.

Tools to circumvent online censorship are largely accessible, and Indonesians are a global leader in the use of virtual private network (VPN) services.3 However, one test in 2017 found that three tools offering VPN services or anonymous browsing were subject to blocking.4 These three tools continued to be blocked at the end of the coverage period.

B8 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues? 4.004 6.006

Platforms and websites used for mobilization were largely available during the coverage period. However, online threats and harassment of protesters or others using the internet to organize limits digital activism (see C7). The government has also restricted internet connectivity to quell protests during previous coverage periods (see A3). Indonesians use online mobilization tools to call for the government to change its policies and practices.

Change.org is particularly popular in Indonesia, with more than 16 million users in 2020 signing petitions to mobilize on various political issues, including the controversial omnibus law, the COVID-19 pandemic, and climate change.1 During the coverage period, at least four petitions against the omnibus law yielded more than 2.3 million signatures each; 12 petitions convinced the government to change policies; and one petition against the government’s vaccination plan went viral on social media, garnered more than 8,400 signatures in one week, and convinced President Jokowi to make the vaccine free for everyone (initially, only 53 million people would get it for free).2 Other successful petitions include one initiated by a COVID-19 volunteer group, LaporCovid-19, demanding the dismissal of the minister of health for his alleged mismanagement of the government’s pandemic response; a petition that urging the termination of the national examination, which has failed to improve the country’s educational standards; a petition rejecting the plan of the minister of law and human rights plan to release prisoners convicted of graft to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons; and a petition demanding Jokowi evaluate and remove members of his special staff for alleged abuse of power.3

Although protestors have been successful in using online mobilization tools to advocate for change, some still face online intimidation as a result of their digital activism. For example, several individuals who participated in or coordinated protests against the omnibus law were doxed (see C7.)

In 2019, despite restrictions on connectivity in Papua and West Papua, users across Indonesia were able to mobilize online. One popular petition called for the government to restore internet access in Papua.4 Social media users amplified protesters’ messages online,5 while others crowdfunded to support the demonstrations.6 The initiator of a crowdfunding effort was arrested in September 2019, but a petition in their support that obtained more than 50,000 signatures secured their release.7

C Violations of User Rights

C1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence? 2.002 6.006

Freedom of expression, including online, is nominally protected in the constitution and other laws, but the right is frequently curtailed in practice. The Law on Human Rights, which was adopted shortly after the 1998 transition to democracy, guarantees freedom of expression and other fundamental rights; these protections were strengthened by the Second Amendment of the constitution passed in 2000. The Third Amendment guarantees freedom of opinion.1 The constitution also includes the right to obtain information and communicate freely,2 rights that are further protected by various laws and regulations.3 Indonesia ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2005.4

However, the constitution includes language allowing the state to limit rights based on political, security, moral, and religious considerations.5 This wording provides policymakers with ample room for interpretation.6 The limited respect for the legal framework guaranteeing freedom of expression is exemplified by the frequency of prosecutions for online activity, as well as disruptions to internet connectivity and social media platforms.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 1.001 4.004

Several laws impose criminal and civil liability for online activities.

Provisions of the 2008 ITE Law have been used repeatedly to prosecute Indonesians for online expression. The law’s penalties for criminal defamation, hate speech, and inciting violence online are disproportionately harsh compared with those established by the penal code for similar offline offenses.1 Amendments from 2016 to the ITE Law further introduced a number of controversial changes.2 Article 27(3) formally expanded the scope of defamation to include content published unintentionally or by third parties, for instance through the tagging of Facebook posts with another user’s name. Private chat messages can also be considered violations, as the offense of “transmitting” defamatory content applies even when only one person receives the content. The article also broadly covers “all acts other than distributing and transmitting” that make the content accessible to others, which made more users vulnerable to prosecution. The maximum penalties for online defamation were lowered from six years in prison to four, and from a fine of 1 billion rupiahs ($71,000) to 750 million rupiahs ($52,970), but these penalties remained harsher than most offline defamation sentences and fell short of advocates’ demands for decriminalization of the offense.3

In June 2021, President Jokowi announced that he would revise articles of the ITE Law which related to prohibited online content and add an additional article addressing “false information that” troubles society.4 Civil society organizations expressed concerns that the criteria for what constitutes troubling “false information” was not clearly defined.5

Passing the Revision of the Criminal Code Bill (RKUHP) was named a legislative priority in the 2021 National Legislation Program (Prolegnas). The controversial proposed changes in the 2019 draft, which were widely criticized by civil society,6 the press,7 and ordinary users,8 would criminalize insulting public authorities and institutions; writing, promoting, or broadcasting information about contraceptives or abortion; spreading information about or associating with communism; distributing false or inaccurate information; and defamation. 9 The bill would also expand the 1965 Blasphemy Law to include six broad provisions of religion-related speech.10 The government planned to reevaluate the Prolegnas in July 2021, after which it would submit a final draft of the RKUHP to the public.11

In April 2020, the National Police issued a directive allowing the police to charge individuals under the criminal code for spreading COVID-19 misinformation online. The directive also instructed police to charge users for online activities that insult the president and government authorities under the ITE Law.12

Other laws infringe on user rights. The 2008 Antipornography Law loosely defines pornography to enable the ban of many forms of legitimate artistic and cultural expression.13 The 2011 State Intelligence Law prescribes penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and large fines for revealing or disseminating “state secrets.”14 This legal framework provides authorities with a range of powers to penalize internet users, although they are not all regularly invoked in practice.

C3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 2.002 6.006

Users frequently face civil and criminal penalties for legitimate online activities.

Online journalists were charged, detained, and convicted for their reporting during the coverage period. In August 2020, blogger and journalist Diantara Putra Sumedi was sentenced to three months in prison after being found guilty of defamation and violating Article 28 of the ITE Law.1 The charges stemmed from a story Diantara published on the blogging platform Banjar Hits about a land dispute between a palm oil company and the Indigenous Dayak community.2

Muhammad Asrul, a journalist with Berita.news, was detained for 36 days beginning in January 2020 after being arrested for alleged hate speech under Article 28 of the ITE Law; he had written three news articles about corruption allegations involving the son of the Palopo mayor.3 His case was pending at the end of the coverage period.4 In March 2020, Mohamad Sadli, the chief editor of liputanpersada.com, was convicted of hate speech and defamation and sentenced to two years in prison for an opinion piece critical of a local government’s road construction project.5

Several cases against activists charged with spreading hate speech online were ongoing during the coverage period. In April 2020, activist Ravio Patra was arrested and briefly detained for allegedly “broadcasting messages to instigate violence and/or spread hatred,” though civil society groups believe he was framed by someone who hijacked his WhatsApp account to spread those messages (see C8).6 In January 2020, religious freedom activist Sudarto was arrested for Facebook posts alleging the government had restricted Christmas services in West Sumatra.7

Online users continued to be prosecuted for defamation. In April 2021, a labor union leader Stevanus Mimosa Kristianto was charged for defaming the reputation of Maybank Indonesia in a speech he delivered during a demonstration against the company in February 2019 that was later cited in an online news article. Kristianto was charged under Article 310(1) of the penal code, and Articles 27(3) and 45(1) of ITE Law.8 In December 2020, Kartika Putri initiated a lawsuit against Dr. Richard Lee, who regularly uploads reviews of skincare products on his YouTube channel, because Lee claimed a product that Kartika endorsed was harmful. By the end of the coverage period, they had failed to reach an agreement through mediation.9 In June 2021, Stella Monica was tried for defamation, after being accused by a Surabaya-based beauty clinic because she uploaded complaints about the clinic’s products online.10

An American citizen Kristen Gray was deported from Bali, Indonesia, after posting on Twitter that Bali was “LGBT friendly.” After being deported, in January 2021, Kristen wrote a public apology.11

Police have also cracked down on the circulation of disinformation. From January 2020 to March 2021, 113 individuals were being investigated for spreading false information about COVID-19.12 This wave of cases follows numerous controversial judicial proceedings during previous coverage periods. Journalist and filmmaker Dandhy Dwi Laksono was temporarily detained and charged in September 2019 for posts on Twitter about Papua that allegedly violated the ITE law and spread information intended to incite hatred.13 That same month, human rights lawyer Veronica Koman was named a suspect for spreading “fake news,” incitement, and inflicting race-based and ethnic hatred for sharing information about Papuan protests (see C7).14 In March 2019, a user was issued a 10-month prison sentence and heavy fine for allegedly sending four WhatsApp messages critical of a textile company, although the accused claimed the messages were sent from a number that she no longer had access to.15 In January 2019, Papuan independence activist Augustinus Yolemal was sentenced to one year in prison after being convicted of “disseminating hostility against the state ideology” for posting a video on Facebook of him and his son singing songs for Papuan independence.16

C4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption? 3.003 4.004

Anonymous communication is somewhat restricted, although not formally prohibited by law. Users have access to encrypted services, although some MCIT policies and other regulations have revealed the government’s desire to gain backdoor access to encrypted communication and personal data.

Since 2005, the MCIT has nominally required mobile phone users to register their phone numbers with the government by text message when they buy a phone. This rule was widely ignored for years, but in 2017, the MCIT introduced a new regulation requiring SIM card users to register by submitting their national identity numbers and their family card registration numbers, thereby limiting anonymity.1 As of late February 2018, failure to comply with this requirement could lead to the temporary blocking of data services to the unregistered SIM cards. If users fail to register within 15 days of the block’s initiation, the SIM cards can be permanently blocked from any telecommunications services. In 2020, the government announced its plan to roll out the use of biometric data for SIM card registration in 2021.2 There were no updates on the rollout of this plan during the coverage period.

In June 2019, the MCIT announced plans to require social media users to include their phone numbers when signing up for an account, a plan that then minister of communications and information technology Rudiantara reportedly had cooperated with a large social media platform to implement.3 That same month, the MCIT reportedly considered regulating VPN use through licenses.4 As of the end of the coverage period, no further information about these plans had been reported.

C5 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy? 2.002 6.006

Government surveillance of online activities limits the right to privacy. Although this right is constitutionally guaranteed, no specific law stipulates its protection. Article 40 of Law No. 46/1999 on Post and Telecommunication prohibits the interception of information transmitted through any form of telecommunications.1 However, at least 10 other laws, including the ITE Law and seven executive regulations, allow certain government or law enforcement agencies to conduct surveillance, including electronically.2 These include the Commission Eradication Commission (KPK),3 the National Narcotics Board, and the National Intelligence Service, among others. The laws do not clearly provide for the scope of interception, despite a 2010 Constitutional Court decision that requires government agencies to have detailed and regulated interception procedures.4 The legal framework also fails to provide for judicial or parliamentary oversight of surveillance activity and remedies for those who allege abuse.

The 2016 amendments to the ITE Law revised some provisions governing interception in response to the 2010 Constitutional Court decision, introducing penalties for interception conducted outside the context of law enforcement. The government indicated that further details concerning interception procedures would be addressed in future regulations.5

During the previous coverage period, the government announced its interest in passing legislation on surveillance and cybersecurity. The Surveillance Bill would authorize the use of wiretapping and various additional mechanisms to conduct monitoring. The Cybersecurity and Defence Bill, which was drafted and announced to the public in August 2019, includes concerning provisions that give the BSSN broad powers to mitigate and respond to cyberthreats, including by cutting data flows (see A3).6 Civil society expressed outcry regarding both process and content; the bill was tabled in July 2019,7 and was not included in the National Legislation Programme 2021.8

In May 2018, Parliament adopted amendments to the 2003 Eradication of Criminal Acts of Terrorism Law (CT Law) that give authorities sweeping surveillance powers to fight terrorism, which is broadly defined. Article 31 permits security officials to “intercept any conversation by telephone or other means of communication suspected of being used to prepare, plan, and commit a criminal act of terrorism.” Human Rights Watch and local civil society groups warned that the language could be interpreted to facilitate disproportionate surveillance that violates privacy rights.9

Authorities monitor social media platforms. In preparation for the 2019 elections, the MCIT created a “war room” in October 2018 that employed 70 engineers tasked with monitoring social media platforms in real time.10 The MCIT reported that it would “take action” if it found users had violated the ITE Law. In January 2018, the BSSN reportedly began to formalize its response to cyberthreats, which included a social media program (see B3).11

Reports have linked authorities to the purchase and use of spyware and other sophisticated surveillance tools. In December 2020, the Toronto-based group Citizen Lab reported that Indonesia had likely purchased Circles technology.12 In late 2015, reports indicated a number of government groups were “likely” using sophisticated FinFisher spyware, which collects data such as Skype audio, key logs, and screenshots.13 Swiss and British companies have also received licenses to export interception technology, particularly international mobile subscriber identity-catcher (IMSI-catchers), to Indonesia.14 Additionally, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported in October 2018 that Indonesian authorities purchased surveillance products from the Israeli-US company Verint to track LGBT+ rights activists and religious minorities.15

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia rolled out the app PeduliLindungi (Care Protect), which pulls location data using Bluetooth proximity tracking to facilitate contact tracing and allows users to register for and obtain certification of their vaccination.16 Civil society groups urged the government to ensure the app aligns with personal data protection principles and to expedite the enactment of a personal data protection law.17

C6 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy? 4.004 6.006

The absence of a comprehensive personal data protection law, an independent data protection authority, and synchronous technical personal data protection regulations in Indonesia have made it challenging to identify and act upon infringements of users’ privacy rights. As of June 2021, Indonesia’s Personal Data Protection Bill had yet to be finalized, and parliamentary discussions on the formation of an independent data protection authority had stalled.1

In February 2020, the Minister of Communication and Information Johnny G. Plate acknowledged that without a comprehensive personal data protection law, identifying data collection practices by digital providers that infringe on users’ right to privacy remains a challenge.2 Data breaches (see C8) and illegal data transfers are the only clear evidence of users’ privacy rights infringements.3

Several laws expand the government’s ability to access personal data held by private companies. Governmental Regulation No. 71/ 2019 (PP 71/2019) states that only data related to government administration, defense, security are subject to data localization requirements;4 it replaced a previous regulation5 that required electronic system providers that offer “public services” to build local data centers.6

The regulation MR 5/2020, which became effective in November 2020 and complements PP 71/2019, mandates that ESOs provide authorities “direct access” to their systems and users’ personal data when requested, for monitoring and law enforcement purposes. Any ESOs whose digital content is used or accessed within Indonesia must also appoint an in-country representative to respond to content removal and personal data access orders (see B3 and B6).7

Some international companies are beginning to store user data domestically. The MCIT requested that Google develop a data center integrated with the government’s system to ensure users’ data is held on servers within Indonesia. Due to the potential of cloud computing business in Indonesia, Google and Amazon are reportedly seeking to develop data centers in Jakarta.8

A 2016 MCIT regulation9 stated that personal data must be encrypted if it is stored in an electronic system, though a separate MCIT directive stated that Over the Top (OTT) providers—that is, video streaming services that work directly through the internt—must allow legal data interception for law enforcement purposes, raising concerns about the security of encryption.10 Moreover, a government regulation issued in 2000 requires telecommunications providers to retain records of customer usage for at least three months.11 Some companies have complied with law enforcement agencies’ requests for data.

There are no clear privacy and personal data protection policies that guide the processing of sensitive health data of users in Indonesia, even as the government has implemented Google-form based vaccination registrations and has partnered with private corporations to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts.12

C7 1.00-5.00 pts0-5 pts
Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities? 2.002 5.005

Online journalists and users regularly face harassment and intimidation in retaliation for their online activities.1

During the coverage period, journalists faced physical harassment and intimidation for their online activities. In May 2021, the house of a journalist for LinkTodays.com, Abdul Kohar Lubis, was set on fire. 2 That same month, an online journalist Mulyono was beaten and doused with gasoline by his neighbor, who accused him of reporting on a street orchestra concert that took place in their neighborhood during the pandemic. 3 In June 2021, the chief editor of North Sumatra’s online media outlet LasserNewsToday.com, Mara Salem, was shot in his car. Police investigations revealed that the shooter owned a nightclub, which Salem reported was involved in drug distribution.4

Journalists are often doxed and harassed for their online activities. SAFEnet reported that there were 13 cases of doxing of journalists, human rights activists, and citizens in 2020—double the number of cases in 2019.5 In March 2021, a journalist with Liputan6.com, Akbar Fua, was doxed after publishing about a criminal group that stormed a police station in Konawe, Kendari City, to secure the release of nine others who had been arrested.6 In September 2020, an individual publicly revealed the home address, family photos, and telephone number of Cakrayuri Nuralam, an online journalist with liputan6.com who published an article verifying that Arteria Dahlan, a politician with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), was the grandchild of the founder of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in West Sumatera.7

Internet users in academic communities have also been targeted for their online activity. A number of protestors who joined the Yogyakarta demonstration against the controversial omnibus law in October 2020 were doxed. For example, the personal data of student protestor Azhar Jusardi Putra and activists Ernawati and Ardy Syihab were circulated on WhatsApp and social media. Putra’s WhatsApp account was also hacked and his mother received death threats.8 In June 2020, organizer and journalist Tantowi Anwari, a speaker at an online discussion at the University of Lampung titled “Racial Discrimination against Papua, #PapuansLivesMatter,” was doxed and subjected to online threats and harassment (see C8).9

Activists and journalists reporting on and discussing Papua and West Papua consistently face intimidation. In April 2021, the car of the founder of independent news site Jubi, Victor Mambor, was vandalized.10 In 2019, human rights lawyer Veronica Koman, who is based in Australia, was reportedly harassed, threatened with sexual violence and death, and had personal information released online, following comments she posted about the 2019 protests in Papua.11

Maaher At-Thuwalibi, a cleric of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), died of preexisting health issues at a National Police detention center while detained for alleged online hate speech and defamation towards an influential cleric. His family members alleged that his health further deteriorated because of the conditions in the cennter.12 In July 2018, journalist Muhammad Yusuf of the local news site Kemajuan Rakyat, who was charged with defamation, alo died in detention (see C3).13

C8 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack? 1.001 3.003

Civil servants, journalists, activists, civil society groups, and news outlets have experienced technical attacks in recent years. The websites of government entities and private companies also face hacks and data breaches.

Employees of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), anticorruption activists, and journalists who have publicly discussed the controversial National Insight Test (TWK)—a civics evaluation that state employees are required to pass due to 2019 legislative amendments, which has been criticized for the appropriateness of some of its questions—had their private social media accounts hacked. In June 2021, the whistleblowing platform IndonesiaLeaks faced hacking attempts on its website and its Twitter account after publishing an investigative report on the TWK.1 That same month, the Telegram accounts of the KPK’s Senior Investigator Novel Baswedan, and Director of Intercommission and Agency Network, Sujanarko, were hacked.2 In May 2021, the think tank Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) reported experiencing several hacking attempts during a virtual press conference that featured eight previous KPK leaders as panelists.3

Individuals and news outlets criticizing the government’s handling of COVID-19 were also subjected to technical attacks. In August 2020, University of Indonesia professor Dr. Pandu Riono, who criticized the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, claimed that hackers posted photos to his Twitter feed of him and a woman they claimed to be his mistress.4 In August 2020, several media outlets and civil society organizations—including Tempo, Tirto.id, and the Centre for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives (CISDI)—were hacked after posting articles that criticized the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Several organizations claimed that hackers erased content from their websites.5

In June 2020, the organizers of a University of Lampung online discussion about racial discrimination in Papua stated that their food delivery service accounts were hacked in order to place large orders and transfer the balance from their digital wallets to another account (see C7).6

Data breaches are also frequent in Indonesia.7 In May 2021, the Healthcare and Social Security Agency (BPJS Kesehatan), which administers Indonesia’s universal health coverage program, experienced a massive data breach. The personal data of 270 million participants were leaked and sold in a hacking forum called Raid Forums.8 In November 2020, the breach of hotel management and booking platform RedDoorz led to 5.8 million individuals’ data being leaked and sold online.

On Indonesia

See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    59 100 partly free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    48 100 partly free
  • Freedom in the World Status

    Partly Free
  • Networks Restricted

    Yes
  • Websites Blocked

    Yes
  • Pro-government Commentators

    Yes
  • Users Arrested

    Yes