Islands of Control, Islands of Resistance: Monitoring the 2013 Indonesian IGF

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The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) brings various stakeholder groups together to discuss public policy issues related to the Internet. The 2013 IGF took place in Bali, Indonesia under the overarching theme of “Building Bridges: Enhancing Multistakeholder Cooperation for Growth and Sustainable Development.” For the country’s vibrant civil society, the IGF presented a range of stakeholders with an opportunity to raise awareness, mobilize support, and shape the agenda. Now that the forum has concluded, however, challenges remain in building a progressive Internet governance agenda that realizes the right to freedom of expression and information.

A growing number of Indonesia’s 240 million people use the Internet daily, whether to get around, to communicate with friends, or to get involved in social campaigns. Indonesia is quickly becoming the “social media capital of the world.” The capital city of Jakarta is the most active Twitter city in the world and the country as a whole is the fourth most active on Facebook. The government, recognizing the importance of high-speed Internet to economic and social development, has committed to developing the country’s information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure by launching the “Indonesia Connected” program to boost connectivity in border and remote areas. Along with this development, however, came an increase in government’s concern over online content. While multistakeholder groups have participated in the often-contentious debate over what online content should be filtered, by whom, under what processes, and according to which laws, their impact on policy-making is uncertain.

As our infrastructure and governance post discusses, Indonesia is currently drafting or revising a number of ICT-related laws that contain serious human rights implications. It is important, therefore, that elements maintaining respect for human rights are incorporated in the scope of these legislations. The Snowden revelations and a number of high-profile corruption cases in Indonesia have renewed calls for stricter regulations regarding wiretapping. The draft Law on Information Technology Criminal Offence (RUU Tindak Pidana Teknologi Informatika [TIPITI]) has raised concerns for being too broad and containing harsher penalties than the controversial Electronic Information and Transactions (EIT) Law (Undang-Undang Informasi dan Transaksi Elektronik). After much criticism, the government is currently revising the EIT law, particularly article 45 which specifies the penalty for defamation as up to six years’ imprisonment and fines of up to IDR 1 billion (approximately USD 106,000). The penalty has reportedly changed from six years to three, but the revision stopped short of decriminalizing defamation.

The Internet market in Indonesia is highly distributed and, as a consequence, the scope and depth of filtered content vary across over two hundred different ISPs. Recently, however, the Indonesian government has aimed toward more centralized systems. The independent Nawala Foundation provides a DNS server that enables service providers to block websites for pornography and gambling, among other categories. Its use is not compulsory for members of the Indonesian ISP Association (APJII), but it is encouraged. In addition, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) maintains and endorses Trust+ Positif, a set of configuration files and block lists for the popular open source Squid HTTP proxy and the SquidGuard add-on, which is an open source implementation of URL access control lists for Squid. Trust+ Positif block lists include over 745,000 domain names and 55,000 URLs categorized as pornographic content. Because implementation has been inconsistent across service providers, the MCIT is preparing a draft Ministerial Decree on Controlling of Internet Websites with Negative Content (RPM Pengendalian Situs Internet Bermuatan Negatif) to establish a uniform mechanism and conditions for blocking and filtering.

The implementation of content control in Indonesia has been criticized for a number of reasons. Representatives from the APJII have warned that the costs associated with implementing content-filter systems are burdensome for smaller ISPs and could potentially slow down Internet traffic. Also, our research has found that there have been instances of “mission creep” where websites containing religious issues and religious advocacy groups, and content related to sexuality and gender (e.g., local LGBT community websites), among other content categories, are also blocked. Civil society has criticized government’s opaqueness and unresponsiveness to their concerns, especially with regard to the Trust+ Positif system (e.g., which legislation governs the blocking mechanism of illegal content and the use of tools such as Trust+ Positif. If a website containing no illegal web content is blocked, what is the remedy mechanism? Who will pay for the costs incurred for monitoring and screening websites?). These concerns are made all the more serious when citizens are “very much invited” to participate in content control by forwarding URLs to an e-mail address or filling out a submission form (at the time of publication, this form was “under development”).

Civil Society’s Role in the 2013 IGF

Civil society organizations play a key role in increasing awareness of citizens’ rights online. ICT Watch, one of our Cyber Stewards Network partners, as well as a number of other organizations such as Institute of Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), Relawan TIK Indonesia (ICT Volunteers Indonesia), Center for Innovation Policy and Governance, and Hivoslaunched the Indonesian CSO Network for Internet Governance (ID-CONFIG) in December 2012, which is a coalition of local civil society organizations (CSOs) that regularly dialogues on Internet governance issues. Under the banner of ID-CONFIG, civil society organizations participated actively in the 2013 IGF process. The steering and organizing committees, for instance, included ID-CONFIG, the government, and the private sector. During the event’s planning stages, the organizing committee faced delays in finalizing the host country agreement, as well as budgetary shortfalls (partially stemming from political turmoil following corruption allegations facing the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology), which threatened to see the event cancelled. The issue of funding for the 2013 meeting also sparked a more fundamental debate over how to fund the Internet Governance Forum generally. Following reports on social and news media that the Bali IGF would be cancelled due to a lack of funds, and a series of discussions on several mailing lists inquiring if this was really the case, the Chair of the IGF Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) and former IGF Executive Secretary, Markus Kummer, maintained that “the UN has not received any official confirmation that Indonesia is withdrawing its offer to host the 2013 IGF” and that “cancelling the whole event is no option.” The group was eventually able to raise the funds, with domestic and international actors making financial contributions to cover the funding gap.

These different stakeholders coming together during the early stages of the event shaped how the 2013 IGF was constituted. The IGF has traditionally been a government-driven event because a substantial amount of funding is required to cover a host country’s responsibilities, such as paying for the meeting venue and participant transportation, as well as the travel, per diem, and at-home replacement costs of UN staff, among other expenses. But the lack of government support provided the space for business and civil society communities to step up their roles in the forum’s organization, and their influence could been seen throughout. For instance, in addition to fundraising for the event together, they suggested two overarching themes, “Internet Governance Towards Information Society through Multistakeholder Participation” and “Internet Governance to Achieve Sustainable Development through People’s Participation.” The theme that was adopted, “Building Bridges: Enhancing Multistakeholder Cooperation for Growth and Sustainable Development,” contained the key words “multistakeholder” and “sustainable development,” which were considered by these stakeholder groups as crucial components of Internet governance.

Civil society formed an integral part of the 2013 IGF Secretariat, responsible for running the event, which meant that they were in charge of creating and maintaining the website and determining the distribution of resources among participants (e.g., nine booths were allocated to civil society versus seventeen in total for government and private sector representatives). The secretariat worked with the Penabulu Foundation, a Hivos partner organization, who introduced measures to ensure financial transparency and accountability, such as standard operating procedures for auditing and reporting. During the event, a number of workshops such as “Civil Society and Internet Governance: Multi-Stakeholder Engagement Practices from Southeast Asia and Beyond” and “Social Media for Social Movement: How Civil Society Can Optimize the Internet to Conduct Online Public Advocacy of Human Rights” were organized by civil society groups. The IGF pre-event, traditionally organized as a ministerial meeting, was broadened in scope and was referred to this year as the High-Level Leaders Meeting (HLLM). Over seventy civil society participants were invited to the HLLM, three of whom were speakers — including Citizen Lab’s Director Ron Deibert — compared to only two speakers each from government and the private sector. Indonesia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology’s statement at the HLLM was drafted with input from civil society. Following the event’s conclusion, the 2013 IGF narrative report was drafted by civil society, including the Citizen Lab.

Citizen Lab staff and associates have participated in every IGF since the first meeting was held in Athens in 2006, as well as the WSIS meetings that preceded it in 2003 and 2005. At the 2005 WSIS meeting in Tunis, Citizen Lab researcher Nart Villeneuve’s presentation on Internet filtering was disrupted by Tunisian authorities and nearly cancelled. Moreover, our participation in the 2009 IGF in Egypt included having the book launch for the OpenNet Initiative’s Access Controlled interrupted by United Nations’ officials, following complaints by Chinese government representatives concerning our reference to Tibet and the Great Firewall of China in our published material. In contrast, the Citizen Lab was able to participate freely and openly at the 2013 IGF, including hosting a press conference on the publication of a series of blog posts titled “Monitoring Information Controls During the Bali IGF,” which discuss at length Indonesia’s content filtering and surveillance regimes.

Looking Forward

The IGF provided a springboard for Indonesian civil society organizations, working together with other stakeholder groups, to rally behind pressing Internet governance issues such as censorship and surveillance. The influence that civil society had on the 2013 IGF has been lauded as a model for how multistakeholder participation can operate at these events. We hope that the momentum of pushing for greater protection of the basic principles of human rights in Internet governance in Indonesia can be maintained, and that the multistakeholder process can be sustained well past the event.

The government is working toward building ICT infrastructure and services to connect the archipelagic country from Sabang to Merauke. Indonesia’s youthful population ensures that technologies like the Internet are being adopted quickly. By the end of 2013, Indonesia’s Internet penetration rate is expected to reach 33 percent, or roughly 80 million users. The business community’s role is crucial in ensuring that the growth in accessibility and Internet usage is achieved. For this development to happen, the country’s legal and regulatory framework must be consistent, greatly simplified, and harmonized to make it less burdensome and more transparent for business. These goals can be achieved by encouraging greater government accountability and transparency.

Indonesia, as a founding member of the Open Government Partnership, has committed to a model of government that is “sustainably more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to their own citizens.” The OGP pledge can be extended to the Internet governance sphere by the government’s collaboration with fellow stakeholders, such as businesses and civil society, when designing Internet-related policies, as well as creating mechanisms to facilitate and deepen this cooperation. For instance, while the government has held focus group discussions of early drafts of legislations, civil society has called for these discussions to be more transparent (e.g., recorded and made public), and for the government to ensure that relevant feedback is incorporated into the final drafts.

One of the more urgent concerns the Indonesian government faces is cybercrime, and the population is becoming even more aware of its impact. A recent Akamai report indicated that the number of cybercrime incidents in the country is growing significantly. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that Indonesia is involved in a number of regional initiatives to combat cybercrime. In 2011, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met in Bali to discuss transnational crime, recognizing that the organization should jointly combat cybercrime. The ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime met in Vietnam in 2013 to reconfirm its commitment to fighting crime in the region, and concluded with an endorsement for a working group on cybercrime. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), of which Indonesia is a member, is working to ensure cooperation on combatting cybercrime through the “Security and Prosperity Steering Group Experts Group on Cybercrime,” which is designed to “promote and improve cooperation among member economies in the fight against cybercrime.” Cybercrime issues are also expected to be discussed at the ninth World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference to be held in Indonesia in December 2013. Commentators are urging the WTO to help global victims of cybercrime and economic cyber espionage through clear “guidelines and penalties.” Unless a balance is maintained between national security concerns and lawful procedures and oversight mechanisms, these initiatives run the risk of adversely affecting civil liberties and human rights.

As development continues apace, civil society has an important role to play in engaging the general public, government, and private sector to ensure that Indonesia’s Internet governance regime respects and protects basic principles of human rights. Achieving this balance requires constant monitoring and continuously reexamining policies and practices, and a proactive engagement with like-minded domestic and international stakeholders. With the impending establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, it is expected that there will be more consolidated collaboration in the area of cybercrime and cyber security. Together with our colleagues in the region, we will be monitoring developments in the country’s Internet governance agenda closely and we support one that promotes democracy, human rights, transparency, and accountability.