Tifatul wants social media controls to avoid Arab spring-style uprisings
Jakarta Globe - July 14, 2011
Minister of Communications and Information Technology Tifatul Sembiring said that the Indonesian government was obligated to serve as a gatekeeper for the Internet, including social media.
According to Tifatul, stricter controls were necessary to prevent Indonesia from suffering the same fate as Tunisia and Libya, where huge portions of those populations rose up to depose autocratic rulers.
"The government is obligated to control the Internet," he said on Thursday. "Don't let uprisings, like what happened to Tunisia and Libya -- who failed in controlling the social media like Facebook and Twitter -- happen to us,"
His remarks came at an event in Menteng, Central Jakarta, to inform children about safe and healthy use of the Internet.
"In the past, control toward the government was done through the House of Representatives, but now the control and critics toward the government is done through the social media. The public is free to express their opinion but they have to be responsible," Tifatul said.
His call to arms garnered swift reaction. A Prosperous Justice Party lawmaker Mahfudz Siddiq said the government should not meddle with limiting speech in social media.
"Twitter is a public communication media, thus there is no need to limit or control it," Mahfudz said. "Besides, how will the government control Twitter? The social and online media are not constrained to time and space, how will we limit something like that?"
Indonesian Twitter users responded harshly to the minister's latest statement. @samleinad wrote, "Did Tifatul think when he tweeted about AIDS?'
Last year, the minister raised the hackles of gay rights activists with a series of homophobic tweets in which he blamed "perverted sex acts" for the spread of HIV/AIDS. In one tweet, he quoted a passage from the Koran that told of Allah "smiting [homosexuals] with rocks from a burning land."
Another Twitter user, @Amulia, wrote, "Why are you taking care of something which is totally not important?"
@Achtungkoro wrote, "Pak Tif, uprisings didn't happen because of social media but there is something wrong with the government and it had to be criticized and improved."
On his Twitter account, Tifatul once again stressed that social media could have a major effect on many aspects of the nation. "What I'm saying is social media can affect politics, economy and even social structure so we have to pay attention," he tweeted.