Emanuel Kure & Muhamad Al Azhari, Jakarta – YouTuber Kimberly Khloe, or Kimi Hime as she is known online – her channel profile describes her as a "Multi-talent Gaming and Tech Influencer" – was briefly engaged in a tug-of-war this week with the country's Communication and Information Technology Ministry, who blocked some of her videos for fear they were "not appropriate to Indonesian norms."
The case this time not only turned the spotlight on the country's draconian internet law but also sparked debates on the increasingly mad antics of social media influencers.
Kimi quickly fought back against the ban, arguing that none of the content she had uploaded on her channel was pornographic or "sexually suggestive" as has been alleged.
"If I had breached the law, please explain it to me. What did I do wrong?" Kimi said in a video she uploaded last Wednesday.
The video, titled "Dear Mr. President Joko Widodo," quickly went viral. Until today it has garnered more than 2.1 million views.
The 29-year-old has 2.26 million subscribers on YouTube, 1.3 million followers on Instagram and more than 800,000 followers on Facebook.
In the video, Kimi claimed she had been a victim of character assassination and a trial by social media.
"I never even took off my clothes," she said in the video. She also pleaded to President Jokowi to check out her YouTube channel. "If people say I've been undressing [in my videos], that's slander," she said.
Kimi said she now no longer feels safe producing content in Indonesia. "My works are not appreciated. Is the rule only applied to me? Why isn't it applied to other content creators?" she said.
Clickbait vs. ITE Law
The ministry had its own reason to ban Kimi's videos. Three of them had the following titles:
1. Strip Challenge! Die Once=Take Off Your Clothes! – PUBG Mobile Indonesia
2. So Intense, What Is This White Thing Coming Out!?
3. Getting Too Deep in the Game, This Girl Releases Sticky Fluid – Uncensored Full HD MP4
The ministry said it has also reviewed the content of the videos and considered it "not appropriate to Indonesian norms."
Social media influencers like Kimi have always had to tread carefully with the country's draconian internet law, called the Information and Electronic Transactions or ITE Law, since it allows for very loose interpretations that law enforcers can use to charge people with anything from defamation to posting supposedly indecent material.
Kimi's videos started gaining attention after the Indonesian Broadcast Watch Association, a content watchdog, reported some of them to the House of Representatives.
Acting on the report, the ministry contacted Google, who owns Youtube, and asked them to block the videos in Indonesia.
Fernandus Ferdinandus Setu, the acting head of public relations and communication at the ministry, said he had warned content creators like Kimi not to publish videos with clickbait titles, especially when they may offend social norms.
Kimi's YouTube channel relies on a combo of her good looks, gaming expertise, tips and tricks on maintaining a healthy life for e-sports enthusiasts, judiciously curated video thumbnails and sexual innuendos in the video titles to attract viewers.
Pratama Persadha, the founder of Communication and Information System Security Research Center, told CNN Indonesia social media influencers like Kimi are facing intense competition to attract followers and, hence, endorsement and commercial deals.
According to data from global marketing research firm eMarketer, by March this year there were at least 500,000 professional influencers trying to make their fortune on Instagram in Indonesia. The numbers on Facebook and YouTube were not far behind.
This forces content creators to rely on increasingly extreme gimmicks to make them stand out from the madding crowd. Pratama said viewers of Kimi's channel are often attracted by her skimpy clothing.
"Kimi is famous for uploading videos of her playing games. Her fans think she is sexy, thanks to the outfits she is wearing when she is on camera," he said, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.
Pratama said Kimi's content could be considered "too vulgar" if judged according to "Eastern values." "Her content invited controversies because they were against Eastern values," he said.
Indonesia is a relatively conservative nation when it comes to content viewable on public platforms like television and the cinema, and increasingly online platforms like YouTube.
The country's censors have the power to request the platforms to block content that they deem pornographic. However, Pratama praised the ministry's decision to call Kimi to settle the matter in person.
In the past, transgressors of Indonesia's internet law often met a worse fate. Pop singer Nazril "Ariel" Irham was sent to jail in 2010 after sex tapes of him and – allegedly – two of his artist girlfriends spread widely on the internet. The ITE Law was used to jail the singer.
On Monday, Kimi sent her legal team to meet with officials from the ministry. Irfan Akhyari, one of her lawyers, told Okezone.com on Wednesday that the YouTuber had agreed to set the videos considered vulgar by the ministry on her channel as "private," which means no one will be able to view them anymore.
He said the lawyers had also asked for a clear ruling on what type of content is allowed or not allowed to be published by an influencer like Kimi.
Ferdinandus from the ministry said it is currently revising a ministerial regulation elaborating on several points of the ITE Law to give clearer content guidelines for the public and as a preventive measure to stop the distribution of explicit material online.