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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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ISIL and virtual recruitment in Indonesia

  • Helmy Fauzi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Mon, August 11, 2014 | 08:52 am

The Arab Spring has entered a new stage. Acts of violence and terror perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Iraq has shocked many parties, not only because of their achievement in taking over big cities in Iraq, but also because of their horrifying terrorism.

 Indonesia has been impacted by the ISIL phenomenon, too. On July 31 a video on YouTube containing an invitation to join ISIL startled the Indonesian public.

 Only after mounting public pressure did the Communications and Information Minister Tifatul Sembiring order access to ISIL websites blocked, including the video and several clone websites. Of course, this snail-paced move, which portrays the ministry'€™s insensitivity, has raised concerns.

The ministry spokesman, Ismail Cawidu, had previously said the ministry could not block the ISIL video without any prior complaints. Blockade is immediately effective when it comes to porn sites only.

It is due to this lack of sensitivity that the ministry deserves criticism for several reasons. First, the video of ISIL'€™s Indonesian supporters is an abuse of the Internet that can put national interests under threat. Participating in counterterrorism measures is a duty of the ministry as a part of the government. Thus, Internet abuse to spread radical teachings, hatred and acts of violence is supposed to be handled immediately without having to wait for any report or complaint.

Second, the video itself clearly violates Article 28, Paragraph 1 of Law No. 11/2008 on information and electronic transaction as it spreads lies and misleading information.

The law, in particular Article 40, Paragraph 2, mandates the government, including the Communications and Information Ministry, to protect the public and their interests from harm as a result of Internet abuse, which may lead to public disorder.

Lastly, the ministry has adopted a double standard in viewing Internet abuse phenomena as in the case of the video from ISIL. Particularly when it comes to religious-based terrorism and radicalism, the ministry barely takes action, including against websites that fuel hatred or those that provide bomb-assembling manuals. On the contrary, the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and the National Police have repeatedly asked the ministry to block the dangerous sites.

The ministry has instead proactively fought porn sites. So fervent is the ministry'€™s war on pornography that it blocks the popular video-sharing website Vimeo because of allegations that it contains porn.

Following globalization and the 1998 political shift, terrorism threats in Indonesia have been evolving. The easy movement of people and information as a result of IT development has indirectly facilitated terrorist groups in Indonesia to grow. Poor law enforcement has exacerbated the problem.

Like us, the terrorist groups take advantage of IT advancement. They develop their networks and easily send messages and threats to the world. IT helps them carry out propaganda and virtual recruitment of members. Steven Emerson in his book, Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the US, says there are at least five benefits of the Internet for terrorists, which are: (a) operational communication, (b) gathering cyber and physical target information, (c) psychological warfare, (d) terror financing, (e) providing jihad training.

In other words, the virtual recruitment attempted by ISIL through social media like YouTube has become a general pattern of terrorist groups. They master computer software development to infiltrate the cyber world. So, our government'€™s bid to fully stop Internet manipulation by the terrorists and radicals group will be made difficult, if not impossible.

Therefore, there are two steps that the communications ministry can take to suppress Internet abuse by terrorist groups. First, the ministry needs to proactively conduct counter-propaganda against terrorism in the cyber world. The government has to provide and spread as much information as possible to influence the public'€™s perception.
Of course, this endeavor needs involvement by all parties. They have to be willing to share information and cooperate to counter terrorism. Trust-building among institutions is urgently needed.

Second, the ministry needs a new approach to deal with terrorism. In the future it has to be innovative, aggressive and progressive in fighting terrorist groups that utilize the Internet.

The new approach does not require the formation of a new body. Optimizing the existing Trust+positive approach of the ministry is enough. We just need Trust+positive to be more accountable, transparent and involving the public.

The implication of the new approach is that the ministry has to be proactive in monitoring websites, accounts and videos that may be used as propaganda tools by terrorist and radical groups. Immediate action against terrorism-related sites that endanger national interests is needed. Therefore, blocking websites that support terrorism does not require any report from other parties.

The spread of ISIL videos cannot be tolerated. We should learn from the immersion of Afghanistan war alumni in Indonesia, who have perpetrated a series of bomb attacks in the country. Let'€™s protect the country, or else it will transform into a breeding ground for terrorist groups or a new battlefield for former ISIL supporters when they come back to Indonesia.

Of course, the presence of the state in the cyber world does not need to be feared. This proactive effort is not for the purpose of spying on the public that runs counter the spirit of democracy. The starting point is to prevent the spread of hatred and terrorist propaganda that jeopardizes our national interests.


The writer a member of the House of Representatives'€™ Commission I overseeing defense, information and foreign affairs from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

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