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Indonesia: Minister Revives Plan to Control Social Media

Tifatul Sembiring, Indonesia's controversial IT and Communications Minister, said that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook must be strictly controlled since they can be used to destabilize the government. He added that countries like Tunisia and Libya suffered from uprisings because their governments failed to control social media.

Indonesia has one of the biggest and most active Twitter and Facebook communities in the world.

Tifatul Sembiring. Image by Flickr user Ikhlasul Amal (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Tifatul Sembiring. Image by Flickr user Ikhlasul Amal (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Outspoken blogger, known as Treespotter, reacted via Twitter.

@treespotter: Dear Pak @tifsembiring, pergolakan dari Tunisia sampai Malaysia karena Pejabat gagal mengelola Negara – bukan gagal mengelola Twitter.

@treespotter: Dear Mr. @tifsembiring, the uprisings from Tunisia to Malaysia were triggered by officials who failed managing the state – not managing Twitter.

@Tifsembiring: @treespotter nangkapnya agak keliru trees, jadi sy bilang socmed bisa mempengaruhi politik, ekonomi bahkan struktur sosial. Kita hrs amati

You got it wrong trees, I said socmed could influence politics, economy, even social structure. We have to observe.

@treespotter @tifsembiring saya setuju betul bahwa Pemerintah penting mengamati, belajar sama sama, sebagai aset Indonesia. Bukan ancaman kekuasaan.

@treespotter @tifsembiring I agreed that government should be well observing, to learn together, as Indonesia's asset, not as threat to the power.

After being criticized in the media, Tifatul made a statement through his favorite communication outlet, Twitter, and complained that reporters have misquoted him again. Later on he also wrote a short clarification on his Facebook page, saying that his statement about social media control in front of public elementary school teachers was about emphasizing on adult supervision on children's internet browsing experience, language use decency and anti-pornography browsing.

Blogger Ross1948 who blogs at Rossrightangle said:

[…]
but outlandish though his pronouncements sometimes are, he’s not a moron. He IS recognising that an active and unfettered internet, bloggers galore, would be a thorn in the flesh of a shariah-freak state. And rest assured, readers, a shariah-freak state is exactly what Tifatul and the PKS would like to see in Indonesia.
Naturally, his urge to shackle social media, which includes blogs like ours, at once provoked both oppostion and even ridicule. Detik.com quotes Tjipta Lesmana, a political communication expert, as describing Tifatul’s words as “It’s nonsense to think that social media can be controlled. This may be Tifatul’s personal view or the President’s. If the latter, SBY should not be afraid. If he is, there’s something wrong in the government.’

Tifatul Sembiring is the former chairman of Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an Islamist party often criticized for its highly conservative agenda. In the past, PKS staged rallies supporting the establishment of Palestine state and protesting against the United States of America and its allies.

He is also known to champion the highly controversial Cyberlaw Bill that prosecuted Prita Mulyasari, a homemaker who was slapped with defamation charges for writing and publishing a complaint email against an international hospital chain.

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