Jakarta – The government has vowed to keep a close eye on social media for content that may spread agitation and hate ahead of the preliminary hearing on the presidential election dispute in the Constitutional Court next week, Communications Minister Rudiantara said on Wednesday.
Indonesia limited access to photo and video content on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube and the like on May 22-25, to contain rioting that coincided with post-election protests by supporters of losing presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto.
"We are monitoring continuously. We hope that there will be no escalation in cyberspace," Rudiantara told reporters, as quoted by Antara news agency.
But he stopped short of confirming whether the government would bring back its curbs on social media, which, while effective in reducing hate speech, also negatively impacted those who depend on the online platforms to conduct business.
Prabowo had meanwhile also called on his supporters to stand down, thus reducing the risk of similar mass protests as those that occurred in Jakarta last month. The Constitutional Court is scheduled to hold the preliminary hearing on the election dispute on June 14 and issue its verdict by June 28.
Rudiantara said the ministry had identified between 600 and 700 links containing negative content during last month's social media curbs.
"It's not just hoaxes, but also [content] that is, in nature, encouraging violent clashes," the minister said.
The government decided to lift the curbs on the fourth day, after seeing negative content reduced to about 100 links a day.
Rudiantara said the government paid special attention to instant messaging platform WhatsApp, which according to market data provider Statista, is used by 40 percent of internet users in Indonesia.
The minister said hoaxes spread easily on the messaging platform, which amplify existing negative content on social media.
"For example, someone creates a fake account on Facebook to upload content, then makes a screenshot of the content and shares it via instant messaging," Rudiantara said.
He added that the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology had coordinated with the platform provider to contain the spread of negative content.
During last month's curbs, WhatsApp blocked around 60,000 numbers from Indonesia for spreading hate and breaking the platform's policies, Rudiantara said.