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Jakarta Post

Indonesia slams Facebook, Instagram for 'sluggish' efforts in filtering content

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, March 1, 2019   /   06:14 pm
Indonesia slams Facebook, Instagram for 'sluggish' efforts in filtering content Communications and Information Minister Rudiantara said more public reports were lodged over Facebook and Instagram than any other platform – 8,903 reports on the two platforms were filed in 2018, a significant increase from the 2,232 reports in 2017. (Shutterstock/File)

The government has slammed tech giants for failing to filter content that it says has contributed to the spread of misinformation on social media.

Communications and Information Minister Rudiantara said more public reports were lodged over Facebook and Instagram than any other platform – 8,903 reports on the two platforms were filed in 2018, a significant increase from the 2,232 reports in 2017.

He also said Facebook, which also owns Instagram, had not been collaborative in the ministry’s requests for the removal of content, calling their response to the issue “sluggish”.

“Facebook can’t only look at Indonesia as a big business market. They also have to have the moral responsibility to prevent the misuse of negative content on their platforms,” Rudiantara told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

As a social media platform based in the United States, Facebook and its community standards did not take into account the literacy level in Indonesia, Rudiantara added.

The government has been fighting against the spread of hoaxes and misinformation. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who is looking to get reelected, highlighted the risk of misinformation, saying it could contribute to polarization ahead of the April legislative and presidential elections.  

Rudiantara was recently involved in a row with Instagram over Alpantuni, an Instagram account that featured a comic strip on the life of a gay Muslim man.

When the account was deactivated after pressure from conservatives on social media, the government said that it was taken down based on its request, a claim later denied by Instagram. It was found that the account owner was responsible for deactivating the account.

The platform had previously suspended or removed several accounts based on the government's and public reports, including those that belonged to Muslim cleric Abdul Somad.

Meanwhile, Facebook has been making a concerted effort to stop the spread of fake news.

The platform shut down 789 million fake accounts worldwide last year and removed 800 million pieces of content from April to September, according to its latest reports on enforcing community standards.

While some account owners have accepted the changes, others have resorted to suing Facebook, including social media activist Permadi Arya aka Abu Janda, his nickname on social media.

He threatened to file a Rp 1 trillion (US$71.68 million) lawsuit earlier this month after his Facebook page was removed along with hundreds of pages, groups and accounts linked to Saracen, a news site that was accused of creating fake news to incite disagreements among users in exchange for money

Facebook public policy manager Sheen Handoo explained that Facebook’s content removal actions were based on careful considerations of content that violated its community standards.

“Our policies are only as good as the enforcement. We are investing a lot on our enforcement. We review every report from our community,” Sheen said.

She said around 15,000 officers worldwide has monitored all user-reported content in addition to its automated flagging system that notified the company of potential violations.

Facebook also set up last year an appeals system that allows the owners of blocked accounts to contest the platform’s decisions.

Unggul Sagena from internet watchdog SAFENET, however, criticized Facebook for its regulations, saying it could potentially threaten the freedom of speech.

“Even if there’s a scheme [for users] to appeal, the effort implies that Facebook has become the content police,” Unggul said.

He added that the problem was that the internal mechanism for removing content was unclear as Facebook’s community standards were vague, with no thorough explanation as to what type of content violated its policies.

Instead, he is pushing for clearer community standards while encouraging users to use the blocking and unfollow features to regulate the platform.

“If there are further problems, the best solution is to have a legal process for users who feel that they are at a disadvantage as a result of [content removal] […] This will then depend on the user’s country and its laws,” Unggul said.

The government has long received criticism for its Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law, which has jailed hundreds of people over their posts or pictures shared on social media. (mai)