Tik Tok music video app unblocked in Indonesia after fulfilling gov’t requests

Tik Tok, a smartphone app used to make and share 15-second music videos that has become incredibly popular (especially among young people — if you’re over the age of 25 and hadn’t heard of it before, you’re not alone), was officially blocked by the Indonesian government last week on the grounds that it contained “negative content” that was harmful to children.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Communications and Informatics (Kemkominfo) said that Tik Tok’s developer, Chinese software company Toutiao, had fulfilled almost all of the requirements needed to make sure the app was in compliance with Indonesia’s strict Internet censorship regulations, allowing them to unblock the app in Indonesia.

These are the ten requirements given to Tik Tok by Kemkominfo:

  • Clear negative content from the platform.
  • Improve its security system and content filtering using artificial intelligence and moderation.
  • Make Community Guidelines specific to users in Indonesia.
  • Appoint a special Content Manager to oversee the quality of content in Indonesia.
  • Tik Tok currently has 20 content curators in Indonesia and will add up to 200 personnel by the end of the year.
  • Raised the minimum age limit of users to 13 years old
  • Open opportunities for cooperation with NGOs and social and educational organizations in Indonesia.
  • Provide a special path for the Indonesian government to report negative content.
  • Tik Tok promises to open an office take care of business licensing in Indonesia (the app currently has an office for content moderation in Indonesia).
  • The last requirement, which Kemkominfo says Tik Tok is still working on, is related to the placement of the button to report negative content. Previously, the button was located on the content sharing menu. Kemenkominfo requested that the button be moved to the main page to make it more accessible.

According to Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan, a director general at  Kemenkominfo, Tik Tok was very cooperative and responded quickly to all requests from the Indonesian government.

“The response was fast. They came from their headquarters, some from China, some from America, and flew to Indonesia and [are] still here. They are genuinely cooperative, as they see Indonesia as an important potential market and they want to work together,” Semuel said as quoted by CNN Indonesia..

The most recent media reports indicate that access to Tik Tok’s servers are still blocked by some Indonesian internet providers but the inconsistency will likely be resolved soon as ISPs process the unblock order.

Unlike previous instances of the Indonesian government banning or attempting to ban access to websites or apps (such as Reddit, Vimeo, Tumblr etc) Indonesian netizens generally seemed to support the ban, with many decrying Tik Tok as a pointless and annoying app that was having a negative impact on children.

Indeed, while there was some talk about the app containing “pornographic” content, the most serious evidence for this was videos involving young women dancing provocatively in skimpy clothing, which generally doesn’t follow within the rubric of pornography even under Indonesia’s draconian censorship laws.

Kemenkominfo said that thousands of parents had sent them reports about the app, but it seems most of these reports were based on concerns that children were spending too much time and attention on the app.

As in the case with the Bigo live-streaming app that was banned by the Indonesian government until it complied with their censorship requests, it seems a major priority for the government is making sure that Internet companies not only put in place censorship systems but that they have a greater physical presence within the country (which just happens to also fit with their mission of making sure Internet companies comply fully with Indonesian taxes on digital sales and services…)

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