A desperate plea for Internet freedom

So I woke up one day, pulled my laptop out for my daily dose of Reddit when I was greeted with this welcoming sight:

Photo

Yes. As of 25 April 2014, Reddit and Imgur was blocked by my ISP as part of compliance with the TRUST+ Positif program, or more commonly known as the Internet Positif (Positive Internet) program. I was, indeed, annoyed by my ISP’s actions, but they only use a low-level DNS blocking, so I switched over to using Google Public DNS and it worked again. Though unfortunately with mobile network forcing all kinds of connection through their own DNS, I can no longer access them from my phone at all.

This program was incited by Indonesia’s current Communications & Information Ministry, Tifatul Sembiring. He — or as I will further refer to him as “Tiffy” — has a pretty huge Islamist background (more on this later), and so by his powers as the Communications Ministry he decided to launch a “porn filter” program, where ISPs are required to block these so-called “abusive” websites, which, according to them, contain one of the following:

  • Pornography
  • Gambling
  • Phishing/malware
  • Racism
  • Proxy

Of course, this was made for our own good, right? So we can safely browse the Internet without fear of malicious websites attacking our computers? Well, it’s more than that.

The Internet Positif program mostly work on submission report, and although they have a team which reviews these sites one by one, most likely they didn’t even check the contents of the page. One of the first websites blocked by the Internet Positif program was Gaya Nusantara, the first, oldest website for the Indonesian LGBT community.

And herein lies the huge flaw behind the entire program.


Fast-forward to around yesterday, someone on Twitter pointed out that Vimeo is also blocked by their ISP for reasons unknown.

Translation:

“Excuse me Mr @tifsembiring (our current Communications & Information ministry) could I have some explanations on why Vimeo got blocked? Do you seriously assume everyone who goes to Vimeo watch porn? Come on.”

This might be Tiffy’s last swing of the bat, since he will be going out office when his term ends in a few months. That is, unless he’s re-elected for the same position again.

Even though Vimeo haven’t already been blocked by my ISP as of now, this signals that I might have to prepare for the worst. Although it’s not only Vimeo who took the toll.

Another person on Twitter tweeted a more complete list of the websites being blocked by the Ministry:

Now we should take note that all of these websites has little to no pornographic material. If it does, they have an internal process of blocking that content whilst showing a message that the content is not suitable for those who are under 18.

Like seriously. What is their logic behind this? Does this mean that YouTube, Blogger, Tumblr and the like should be blocked entirely because they contain a tiny dash of pornographic material? Does this mean Google has to be blocked because it indexes porn in their searches?

Do they even actually check these websites one by one before outright blocking the entirety of it? Do they just enter a website, then type out “porn” on the search box, then block it when it brings out any results?

That’s pretty much like a government requesting to shut down an entire supermarket because someone complained that there are rats wandering around on the food section.

And where’s the transparency? I never seen them bring out any valid reasoning as to why they were blocking these sites. This has a large probability that it could get misused, and start to abuse their power in controlling the online media that they started blocking websites they don’t want you to see.

I’m sorry Tiffy, your so-called “porn filter” is good I know, but when you start to misuse it by blocking websites they don’t want you to see? That’s borderline censorship to me. That’s abuse of power.


As I said earlier, Tiffy, our Communications & Information minister has a pretty huge Islamist background. He is affiliated with the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and is known to have incited some controversial discussions, mainly on his Twitter account.

He once tweeted a derogatory statement about HIV/AIDS that links pornography to AIDS, which led to outrage among sufferers of HIV, then pointed out that funding to fight the disease was a waste of money. He later stated that the widespread availability of Indonesian pornography, mostly featuring students, caused natural disasters.

He also has been known to quote Adolf Hitler on some of his tweets.

As for his contributions to the tech world in Indonesia, he has contributed nothing at all. Sure, telco companies might have begun testing 4G LTE around Jakarta, but in reality, even our 3G networks are still limping. Digital television availability is still scarce, and no HD broadcast of public television are still available.


That pretty much sums up how our Internet has become. Now I stand before you, begging for help as this is starting to get out of hand.


Update: The blocking of Vimeo has brought up protests in the Indonesian twitterverse, and as of Monday morning, the Ministry of Communications & Information has unblocked access to Vimeo Everything else remains blocked.

Update 2: The Communications Ministry has pulled a double reversal, now stating that the block on Vimeo is mandatory for all ISPs.

Update 3: A local Al Jazeera cameraman posted a video expressing his anger on the blockage of Vimeo.

Update 4: Vimeo has said that they have received the official request sent by the Ministry and are working to resolve the issue.

Update 5: Changed the name “Internet Sehat” to “Internet Positif” to avoid confusion with Internet Sehat, a non-profit organisation promoting safe browsing on the Internet. Internet Positif is purely a government program.