Starting last night, Internet users across Indonesia started reporting that they were unable to access Tumblr due to what seems to be a government-ordered block of the popular microblogging site used by an estimated 420 million people worldwide.
Okay, correction, so far ALL major providers blocked Tumblr. Apparently the ministry got too much time in their hands, they decided to block Tumblr https://t.co/1VYqDp0HK0
— Elmo (@siriuslyelmo) March 5, 2018
It must have felt a bit like deja vu for some of them, since the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Menkominfo) had previously blocked Tumblr for a very short time in 2016.
— Aulia Masna (@aulia) March 5, 2018
Menkominfo, which operates the government’s increasingly expensive Internet censorship systems, has not yet released any statements confirming the block and has yet to respond to media request for more information.
However, the Twitter account for Telkomsel, the country’s largest telco and internet service provider, responded to questions about the Tumblr block by stating that it had been ordered by Menkominfo due to the microblogging site’s “negative content”.
Mohon maaf, Mas Nadzif. Untuk pemblokiran situs tertentu, sudah menjadi ketentuan yang ditetapkan oleh Telkomsel sesuai himbuan MENKOMINFO. Terima kasih. -Albi
— Telkomsel (@Telkomsel) March 5, 2018
“Sorry, Mas Nadzif. For the blocking of certain sites, it is done in accordance with provisions set by Telkomsel according to the MENKOMINFO. Thanks. -Albi”
When Menkominfo blocked Tumblr in February, 2016, they justified it by saying the site had “a lot of pornographic videos and pictures”, in violation of Indonesia’s strict anti-pornography laws. However, the government reversed the ban quickly following protests by numerous groups including Tumblr users and rights activists. At the time, Menkominfo said it would ask Tumblr to self-censor sensitive content, although the internet company never made any statements regarding whether it had done so or not.
Menokominfo has for years blocked a number of highly popular websites containing user-generated content, such as Reddit and Vimeo, over the small percentage of pornographic material that can be found on them. In their Sisyphean attempt to block all pornography and other “negative content” on the internet, the government recently invested in new IDR194 billion (US$14.28 million) censorship system.