Digital Diplomacy: Indonesia Uncensored?

Blog Post by: Maria Camila Portela

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The USC MPD Research Group meets with the Indonesian Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in Jakarta.

free·dom   ˈfrēdəm   noun

The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.

Freedom is often regarded as an absolute concept. There is no compromise of addendum to freedom. It is a core principle to democracy and defended around the world.

During our time in Indonesia we have been introduced to an incredibly diverse country were the principles of tolerance, prosperity, and freedom permeate every aspect of its foreign policy. As the world continues to become more globalized individuals’ rights to freedom of expression extend to the digital realm.

Internet Freedom, defined by The U.S. Department of State, is the “access to the global Internet as an open platform on which to innovate, learn, organize and express [oneself] freely from undue interference or censorship.” [1] Indonesian Cyberlaw No. 11/2008 concerning electronic transactions gives Indonesians the right to access information on the Internet, and freedom of expression online. These rights should and will be upheld, but not at the cost of someone else’s freedoms. This nuanced but important distinction is indicative of the diversity present in the Indonesian population and its collectivistic society. Individual rights are important and defended by the Indonesian constitution, but not to the detriment of someone else’s rights.

During our meeting with the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology we learned about a recent effort to block all pornographic content online. Although at first glance it seemingly does not fit with the absolute meaning of freedom it is indicative of the ethnic and religious diversity present in Indonesia.

As the United States continues to advance Internet Freedom as a foreign policy priority it will be interesting to see how it deals with the cultural sensitivities present within Indonesia.

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