In many ways, Indonesia’s Minister of Communications and Informatics, Rudiantara, runs the country’s digital ecosystem like a high school.
I am not talking about the time when you were crowned prom king or queen; not even the part where your crush touches your shoulder softly when he or she walks pass you in the corridor.
This part of high school is when a stupid classmate decides to bring a Playboy magazine to school, and get caught red-headed by a teacher. Then as a form of punishment, instead of asking just the culprit to run around the schoolyard, the teacher actually punished the entire year.
We did nothing wrong, everyone else protested.
Yes, this will remind to never do anything wrong, the teacher said.
A notification will be enough, you want to protest again.
So the Indonesian government has discovered that some terrorist groups have been using public channels on the messenger app Telegram to broadcast tutorials on how to create bombs and spread their dangerous ideology.
The government has tried to reach out to Telegram to remove these channels, but failure (on the company’s part) to respond to their requests led to blanket block of Telegram’s services in Indonesia, starting on their desktop site on Friday.
In a statement, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov later stated that the company is finally fulfilling the government’s request to block the channels. It has also requested for a direct communication line to discuss the matter with the minister, and has formed a dedicated team of Indonesian-speaking moderators to process reports on terrorist-related accounts “more quickly and accurately.”
But the fire has been set, and there is no dodging the wrath of the netizens over the weekend.
As if blocking ever solvee anything, duh
Here is one thing that needs to be kept in mind: It is not that Telegram users, or the vast majority of humanity, are fans of terrorism.
People are angered at what has happened to Marawi in our neighbouring country the Philippines, and there is no way that anyone can convince Indonesians that a similar threat is not real.
Which is why blocking, banning, or disbanding is never an effective solution.
Not only is blocking messaging services punishing the wrong crowd (for NOT doing what the culprit IS doing!), but it will also drive the terrorist movement underground.
Call it naivety, but when you block a platform, be it a website, blog, social media or messenger app, what happens is the terrorist group and its supporters to become invisible.
Now that they can no longer use their “favourite” platforms, they are forced to look for alternatives. God forbid this alternative should be an offline, manual, solution to communicate.
Having a terrorist group and their fan club using and maintaining a public channel is a way for governments to closely monitor them, and to call for accountability by providing the necessary evidence.
So why do we allow ourselves –and the government– to get sucked into an antiquated approach to these problems? An old way that does not seem to do anything, but we continue to do anyway, because that is what has always been shown to us?
Block. Ban. Disband. Criminalise. Forbid. Indonesia’s favourite solution to every problem under the sky.
Perhaps we have come into the day where all Indonesian netizens (and even citizens) should be gathered in the basketball court, and the headmaster would ask us to lift our hands up if we have ever felt personally victimised by the minister and his policy on banning and censorship.
I would not be surprised if everyone ends up raising their hands