Indonesia’s IT Ministry demands Facebook improve censorship system in light of NZ shootings

Floral tributes to those who were gunned down at the two mosques are seen against a wall bordering the Botanical Garden in Christchurch on March 19, 2019. (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP)
Floral tributes to those who were gunned down at the two mosques are seen against a wall bordering the Botanical Garden in Christchurch on March 19, 2019. (Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP)

The complicated issue of internet censorship has been a hotly debated topic worldwide since social media platforms and websites struggled to contain the spread of footage from the horrific mosque shootings in Christchurch which killed 50 last Friday. The argument is a little less nuanced with the Indonesian government, who seems to think the onus to stop the spread of negative content falls primarily on those who give a platform to said content.

Indonesia’s Communication and Information Ministry (Kominfo) says it has summoned representatives from Facebook to convey the government’s wish to see the social media giant implement stricter censorship policies, including shutting down live streamed videos before they can go viral.

“In truth there have been two cases [with particular relevance to Indonesians], one being a suicide [live streamed video] and now this (the NZ shootings). We are hoping that they (Facebook) can have more advanced content moderators,” Kominfo Information Application Director General Semuel Pangerapan told CNN Indonesia today, making a reference to an Indonesian man who live streamed his suicide in 2017.

“We want Facebook to not depend on user reports. If there are already reports then the negative content has already spread,” he added.

Semuel says Kominfo is expected to meet with Facebook to discuss the matter this week.

Facebook wasn’t the platform with the most mirrors of the viral Christchurch shooting video, at least in terms of those that were blocked in Indonesia. According to data from Kominfo, the ministry blocked access to 2,856 mirrors of the video in the country, with Instagram accounting for the most number of mirrors with 1,501, followed by Twitter with 856, Facebook with 355 and Youtube with 144.

That said, the video — which shows suspected terrorist Brenton Tarrant going into a mosque and shooting all worshippers in his sight — was first live streamed for the entirety of its 16-plus minute duration on Facebook before copies of the video made the rounds online.

Observers noted that many of those copies remained on Facebook and other online platforms for hours after they were uploaded, putting into question the effectiveness of their content moderation and censorship systems.

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