Jakarta – Digital violence has shown an alarming increase throughout 2019, especially leveled at women and critical voices against authorities, according to a report launched by the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet).
The report revealed that 60 complaints related to gender-based cyber violence were recorded in 2019, said SAFEnet executive director Samar Juniarto.
"SAFEnet received 60 reports, of which 44 we received from Komnas Perempuan [the National Commission on Violence Against Women] as our partner," Damar said during the report's launch on Friday as reported by kompas.com.
He said another 16 reports came in through the group's communication channels, including those referred by other communities.
From the 60 cases, 53 plaintiffs were women while the rest declined to reveal their gender.
The most reported form of gender-based cyber violence is the spread of private videos without consent, with a total of 45 cases. There were also seven cases involving privacy violations, two cases of impersonations and three cases involving the spread of intimate photos in the digital sphere without consent. Other reports include public shaming and other forms of privacy violations.
Damar explained that most of the cases had been driven by revenge by a spouse or former spouses, as well as unequal relationships between men and women.
He further noted that starting last year, there had also been gender-based cyberviolence driven by political motivation. He cited an example of a female activist whose nude photos were distributed without consent and was accused of having an affair with a fellow activist.
The distribution, Damar said, allegedly aimed to delegitimize the activists' work in rejecting the controversial revision of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).
"Something similar happened to several university students whose WhatsApp numbers were hacked and used to spread false claims that they were ready to kill and blow themselves up at the KPK building," he added.
Such instances further showed that the internet had become the tool for the government to silence critical voices, he alleged. He further raised concerns that internet freedom in Indonesia was at risk if the state did not take firm actions against digital rights violations.
The report further highlighted that the use of the draconian Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) Law remained rampant for criminalization. According to SAFEnet's data, 24 people were charged using the law in 2019, just down one case from 25 in the previous year.
"Journalists and media workers were the most common victims of criminalization. One media company and seven journalists became victims [of the ITE Law]," Damar said.
Other victims include teachers and celebrities, with three reports each.
Most of the charges were filed by public figures in the government as well as politicians, who filed 10 cases.
Damar said the victims were charged using elastic clauses in the ITE Law that could lead to multiple interpretations and was regularly used to silence critics.
"The most common articles used [to charge victims] are Article 27 (3) of the ITE law on defamation, Article 28 (2) of the ITE law on hate speech or Article 27 (1) of the ITE law on pornography," he said.
Damar urged everyone, especially those who were regularly vocal of political issues, to be careful about their online presence on the grounds of the persistent use of the ITE law and cyber-based gender harassment to silence critical voices. (ami)