Headlines

Minister threatens halt
to BlackBerry Web browsing

Users of BlackBerry smartphones may soon see Internet access to their devices blocked after Communications and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring threatened to shut down the service unless BlackBerry’s maker blocked pornographic sites.

The threat sparked anger among users who expressed concern that they would not be able to use their BlackBerry services.

However, the ministry quickly responded Sunday that other services provided by BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) such as BlackBerry messenger would remain unaffected.

“If RIM does not block [pornographic] content within two weeks from [Tifatul’s threats] made on
Jan. 7, users will not be able to use the RIM service to browse the Internet,” ministry spokesperson Gatot S. Dewabroto said. “However, users can still use other RIM services.”

Tifatul’s latest warning echoes his threat to RIM in August last year. He said the company would be in violation of the country’s law if it failed to obey.

Several local providers stated they were willing to filter content and a trial run to block pornographic content was carried out in front of the increasingly controversial minister.

“Of course some pornographic sites can still be accessed, but not as freely as before. However, it remains very easy to access them using a BlackBerry device. We are only asking [RIM] to filter their content,” Gatot said.

Social networking site Twitter was flooded with posts by users who said Tifatul’s statement may lead to BlackBerry devices becoming totally useless in the future.

Tifatul took to his Twitter account to respond to the concerns and post his demands to RIM, including demanding the company set up a server in Indonesia to allow law enforcement officials to track down corruption suspects, and to open service centers in the country.

He called on RIM to adhere to the 1999 Telecommunications Law, the 2008 Electronic Information and Transaction Law, and the highly controversial 2008 Pornography Law.

“So far, RIM seems to be [stalling for] time on carrying out their commitment. Are we, as a nation, willing to be treated like that?” one of Tifatul’s posts read.

Twitter user Daniel Tumiwa responded by noting that several of Tifatul’s demands — the opening of a local office, establishment of service centers and the employment of local staff  — had been fulfilled by RIM.

In November, RIM officially opened its Indonesian subsidiary, PT RIM Indonesia.

Gatot said the ministry would meet with RIM later this month to discuss the issue.

Several local network operators licensed to provide BlackBerry services said that they would adhere to government regulations, whatever the outcome of this latest issue.

Hasnul Suhaimi, the president director of Excelcomindo Axiata, said that BlackBerry users accounted for 2 percent of the company’s customers.

“Around 700,000 of our customers use BlackBerry services,” he said.

The country’s top telecommunications operator, Telkomsel, which has 95 million subscribers, currently has 1 million BlackBerry customers, company spokesman Yanto Santoso told the Post.

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