Francis Tan is the Asia editor of TNW, who is based in the Philippines. He is particularly interested in Asian Internet startups, social me Francis Tan is the Asia editor of TNW, who is based in the Philippines. He is particularly interested in Asian Internet startups, social media and e-commerce. Get in touch with him via Twitter @francistan or Email [email protected].
Indonesia’s House of Representatives proposed last December an Intelligence bill that reflects the government’s fear of technological threats. The bill, which is still in debate, would give the authorities a free pass to monitor conversations and exchanges on the Internet if enacted into law.
Social media has revolutionized a new type of civic engagement globally. However, in the eyes of the bill’s drafters in Indonesia, technology is considered a threat. The proposed bill would give legal justification to the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) to detain anyone suspected of threatening public security based on exchanges on social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook.
Yanuar Nugroho of University of Manchester, UK explains in an elaborate piece how this could potentially affect the nation negatively.
The intelligence bill itself is a form of technophobia, which Nugroho attributes to the technical incompetence of government officials. Restlessness voiced through social media is seen as a potential security problem, motivating the bill’s drafters to make people subject to arrest for status updates on social media websites.
For those unable to understand the intricacies of technological innovations, it is easy to feel trapped and see the problems and disadvantages technological progress brings to society, rather than acknowledging and taking advantage of its benefits.
He mentions that the Internet and social media can be used strategically to benefit the majority but instead the government has used it for coercion, citing the recent action against RIM, makers of the BlackBerry, forcing the company to install Web filters and to build a local server network that can be monitored by the government. This was interpreted by critics as an exercise of state power aimed at public surveillance, just like in India.
If the intelligence bill is enacted, it is likely that civil liberties activists will become targets of the government, he said.
The bill would give the authorities a blank check to violate Internet users’ privacy. It is no exaggeration to say that there is a great danger that online privacy may soon just be an illusion.
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