Jakarta threatens Facebook ban

An Indonesian cabinet minister has threatened to axe Facebook if there is any evidence the personal data of citizens is being collected or if the spread of “fake news” is not addressed.

Following revelations that the data of 50 million Facebook users was used by a shadowy firm that helped Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, there is anxiety that the Indonesian presidential race could be affected.

Communications Minister Rudiantara said Facebook could become a battleground in the contest and its Indonesian staff could face up to 12 years in jail and fines of US$873,000.

“If I have to shut them down, then I will do it,” Rudiantara said. He boasted to Bloomberg about blocking the Telegram messaging app. “I did it. I have no hesitation to do it again.”

Twitter and Google, which owns YouTube, have also been threatened by the government, with both firms earlier agreeing to work with the authorities to monitor content.

Asean’s largest economy is a prolific user of social media with around 90 million Facebook users.

Both Malaysia and Singapore unveiled plans to tackle fake news last month, although in Malaysia’s case it largely appears to be using the definition to stifle anti-government reports on the 1MDB scandal.

Jakarta’s communications minister said he had contacted Facebook to seek assurances that no Indonesian user’s data was collected by Cambridge Analytica.

“I want an undertaking that there were no Indonesian Facebook users whose information or data was used by Cambridge Analytica,” Rudiantara said. “If that is the case, I can chase them, ask the police.”

Facebook told the Indonesian media it was combating hoaxes by partnering with a third-party fact checker to verify news content.

“We always try to improve the quality and accuracy of information spread through Facebook, especially this election year,” Alice Budisatrijo, Facebook Indonesia’s news chief, told the media in Jakarta.

Budisatrijo said the social-media giant was working with Tirto.id, an Indonesian news group that had been certified by the International Fact-Checking Network.

“In the near future, we are going to partner with more news organisations. They are now in the assessment process to receive certification,” Budisatrijo said.

She added that while the Indonesian initiative was the first in the Asia-Pacific region, Facebook had similar partnerships in the US, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Facebook would submit a content list to the fact checker which would research the provider to verify it, the spokeswoman for the tainted giant claimed.


Joko Widodo is about to return to the campaign trail. Picture credit: Wikimedia