In this episode, we discuss last week’s Whatsapp controversy, where the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology (Kemenkominfo) threatened to block Whatsapp because people reported the proliferation of so-called “pornographic” GIFs on the platform. After a lot of back and forth — including a period when Tenor, a third-party GIF provider for Whatsapp, was actually blocked — the ministry has backed down from its threats and the controversy has, for now, died down. That said, we want to take this opportunity to open up a broader conversation around the UU Pornografi & Pornoaksi (the Pornography and Pornoaction Law) that would have allowed the government to block Whatsapp. This law, which was put into place in 2008, basically provides an incredibly broad and legally vague definition of pornography, allowing the government to use it for its own patriarchal means. We talk about how in Indonesia, the law in general is often times male, and this law in particular has been used to police women’s bodies and restrict their freedom. While it might seem trivial that we’re talking about a ban that never happened, or that we may seem like we’re supporting pornography, our discussion is really about how these kind of open-ended laws are a threat to our freedom of speech, our rights, and our democracy.
Thanks for listening!
For those interested in learning more about the topic, we’ve provided links to resources as well as other recommended readings.
Students Praised for Erasing Whatsapp in “Porn GIF” Controversy — courtesy of Coconuts
101 East: Indonesian morality debate — a 2008 clip from Al-Jazeera English about the law and its implications
Unequal Power Makes Women Brunt of Cyber Law — although talking about cyberlaws, its discussion of feminist jurisprudence is important
Indonesian Law Is Making Victims of Revenge Porn Too Scared to Seek Help — courtesy of Vice, and written by former guest Kate Walton!
Kenapa Kita Mudah Terprovokasi? On Fear — more on the Habib Rizieq/Firza Husein case