Facebook, Twitter and Google escape Indonesia ban by complying with imposed registration at last minute

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Facebook, Twitter and Google have registered for Indonesia's new licensing rules that empower local authorities to remove undesirable content shared on these platforms, as companies that failed to comply risked being blocked.

Meta platforms Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp completed their registration with the country's Ministry of Communications and Informatics on Tuesday, beating the deadline imposed by the Indonesian government by a day.

Spotify, Netflix and TikTok were among the 5,900 domestic companies and 108 foreign companies that signed up as of Monday, based on government data. Meanwhile, Twitter and Alphabet Inc.’s Google were among the latest companies to be added to the communications ministry’s list of compliant foreign providers.

Indonesian authorities had issued a warning that they would block Big Tech companies behind social media applications if they failed to register for licensing by Wednesday, as it would be illegal and unlawful to operate in the country without doing so.

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Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Director General for Information Applications Semuel Abrijani revealed that the government issued the warning over six months ago to both local and foreign tech firms.

"We have warned all local and foreign tech companies, including online services, sites, and application providers, many times that they have to register if they do not want to risk being blocked,” Abrijani was quoted as saying. “We have given them time since six months ago.”

The registration is part of the new regulation Indonesia implemented in January 2022, which requires all tech platforms to secure licenses before they can operate in the country.

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The regulation grants Indonesian authorities the power to order such platforms to take down any content that they deem unlawful, inappropriate or that "disturbs public order." Cases considered urgent must be removed within four hours while those that are not can take up to 24 hours.

The tech companies may also be required to hand over communications and personal data of specific users if requested by authorities.

The government can also now levy a value-added tax on the sale of digital goods, ranging from content posted online to virtual items.

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The Indonesian government reportedly imposed the new rules ahead of the upcoming general election in 2024 in a bid to reduce the spread of misinformation and fake news.

On Twitter, the Alliance of Independent Journalists in Indonesia highlighted that the rules are prone to abuse due to some provisions that are “very elastic.”

“The consequence could be that news or content that reveals rights violations...or investigative reports could be considered unsettling...by certain parties, or even by the government or law enforcement,” the organization tweeted.

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Featured Image via Geralt