Twitter to WhatsApp: Social media companies stand up to Indian government

JAKARTA: Indonesia has blocked several popular tech websites, including search engine Yahoo and electronic payment provider PayPal, an official confirmed on Saturday. The sites were blocked due to their parent companies’ failure to follow the country’s licensing rules.

Since November 2020, technology companies in Indonesia are required to register their platforms with the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. Licensing rules give authorities the power to order companies to remove content or apps deemed “illegal” or “disrupting public order,” among other offences.

Major social media platforms including Meta Platform Inc’s Facebook and WhatsApp, as well as Alphabet Inc’s Google search engine, had been rushing to sign up just days before the government’s deadline in July, after the ministry warned that failure to comply could lead to sites being blocked.

Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan, director general of information and technology at the Ministry of Communication, told Arab News that eight websites had not yet been registered before the extended July 29 deadline, including Yahoo, PayPal and mainstream gaming sites Steam and Epic Games.

He confirmed that the ministry had blocked these platforms.

“If PayPal sees Indonesia as its market and cares about its consumers, it should have registered,” Pangerapan said.

“We gave them a chance they didn’t use. We sent them a letter and they ignored us.

PayPal and US game developer Valve Corporation, which operates Steam, Dota and Counter-Strike, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The access shutdown measures are not permanent, the ministry said in a statement, adding that the licensing rules aim to protect internet users.

The decision sparked a backlash on social media, with hashtags like #BlokirKominfo (block Ministry of Communications) on Twitter and many Indonesians chastising the government’s decision as hurting the local online gaming industry and workers. freelancers, many of whom rely on PayPal.

“I am disappointed with the government. They said they support the creative industry, which at the end of the day is just rubbish,” Kaito, an East Java-based creative freelancer, told Arab News.

Nenden Arum, of the digital rights group the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network, told Arab News that the ministry’s decision to block these platforms is a violation of rights.

“Ideally any website blocking process should involve a trial, but the Department of Communications can do it instantly (because) the platforms have not registered. But we clearly see how it affects and hurts the public,” Arum told Arab News.

“This settlement harms the public — (it disregards) the public interest,” Arum continued.

According to Statista, the world’s fourth most populous country is home to around 191 million social media users, making it an important market for most tech platforms, including Bytedance’s Twitter, Facebook and TikTok. There are also over 170 million gamers in Indonesia, according to a 2021 report released by the Ministry of Communications.

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