Following Indonesia’s ban on popular messaging app Telegram last Friday, the government justified it on the grounds that the service was being used to spread radical content online and so it would take a firm stance against any social media platforms used to spread such content in the country.
The day after the app was officially banned, Indonesia’s IT Minister Rudiantara aptly appeared at an anti-radicalism event at Universitas Padjajaran in Bandung, where he spoke of the possibility of all social media services meeting the same fate as Telegram in Indonesia should they fail to heed the government’s request to filter out radical content. According to Rudiantara, the government made the request last year.
“Up to now only 50% (of radical content have been filtered out) by social media platform providers. This is disappointing,” Rudiantara said, as quoted by Detik on Saturday.
“If there are no improvements we must consider shutting down all (social media) platforms. Apologies, but we may be forced to shut them down because we want to maintain the idea that social media is only used for good.”
Rudiantara added that such a hypothetical ban would come in phases instead of an immediate total ban. If a social media platform does not comply with the government’s rules, the government would initially limit the advertisements that appear on the platform, hurting their business potential in the country.
Despite that tough talk, it seems the government’s ban on Telegram might not be permanent. Officials have expressed their willingness to negotiate with Telegram after the app’s founder opened a line of communication with the government. The nature of the negotiation is not yet known, but an Indonesian official suggested that the lifting of Telegram’s ban may be possible if the app complies with Indonesian regulations regarding radical content.
Telegram is primarily distinguished from its competitors, such as Whatsapp, by its security features including secret chat rooms and self-destructing messages.
It is these features that have led security analysts to warn that Telegram has become the messaging app of choice for terrorist groups, especially ISIS. It is believed the app has been used to coordinate several terrorist attacks, including in Indonesia, in the last few years.