The latest country to attempt to control internet activity is Indonesia, which, Reuters reports, is planning to introduce tough (though as yet not precisely defined) new rules that will allow it to fine, and even criminally charge, internet and social media platforms.
The aim is to make platforms remove ‘unlawful’ content quickly: they will get four hours for an urgent requirement to take down content and 24 hours for less urgent requests. The growth of online content involving fraud, political and coronavirus hoaxes or disinformation is cited as a driver for the measures.
Urgent government requests would include content perceived as sensitive in areas such as security, terrorism and public order, child protection and pornography, according to sources quoted by Reuters. Fines will take into account the size of a platform’s local user base and the 'severity' of the content.
If carried through, these measures will be among the most stringent penalties applied globally to internet and social media platforms. They will also hit what has to date been rapid growth for online firms in Indonesia’s (estimated) $70 billion digital economy.
At the very least, compliance will be expensive. At worst, it could simply be impossible for companies to guarantee. This is, after all, a country of over 273 million people and, as Reuters points out, Indonesia is a top ten market globally by number of users for social media companies; keeping abreast of content violations, which have yet to be defined and which may change over time, won’t be easy.
The measures, which are being drafted by Indonesia's finance and communications ministries, are due to be finalised soon and are expected to come into effect from June.
Defining unlawful content will be a key issue, of course – and that will matter not just in terms of cost to social media and internet companies. There are likely also to be many questions relating to freedom of expression.