Christian Lee, Jakarta – Communications and Information Technology Minister Rudiantara said the police should be given the power to monitor group chats on the WhatsApp messaging platform to combat the spread of hoaxes and false information.
"It's [a] reasonable [policy] in my opinion," Rudiantara said before a meeting on Tuesday with Commission I of the House of Representatives (DPR), which oversees communications and information technology, defense, intelligence and foreign affairs.
According to him, the "patroling" of group chats on WhatsApp should be done when someone in the group is suspected of breaking the law.
"The police will enter a [WhatsApp] group if a member of the group has committed a crime. I support it as long as [it is done to investigate a] crime. Not just any [arbitrary] patrol," Rudiantara said.
The minister dismissed the notion that monitoring WhatsApp groups violates privacy rights.
"Everyone with legal problems has to be dealt with. It doesn't make sense if [monitoring of WhatsApp groups] is disallowed for the sake of privacy. People will [use the loophole to] break the law," he said.
Presidential chief-of-staff Moeldoko has also given his approval to the plan, saying that the nation's security should be prioritized over the privacy rights of its citizens.
"That's what should be done," Moeldoko said at the DPR building in Senayan, South Jakarta, on Tuesday.
He said Indonesians should be willing to do anything for the country, including putting aside their privacy rights.
"The state is responsible for national security. National security is the president's responsibility. The government's responsibility is to protect its people. If [the people] are not protected because privacy is prioritized, then the president is to blame," Moeldoko said.
The former Army general said there will be limits to the "cyber patrol" and that it will not invade private matters.
"We can find out what someone does, says or writes. You will only get in trouble if you offend, hurt or slander others," he said.
During the May 21-22 Jakarta riots, the government limited access to WhatsApp, arguing the messaging app has been used to spread hoaxes. As a result, people were unable to send or receive messages, photos and videos. Access to social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram were also restricted for three days.