Indonesia restricts social and chat apps after riots break out in Jakarta

It follows a dangerous precedent of stopping people from communication during major incidents.


In the wake of yesterday's riots, the Indonesian government restricted social media use, following other countries' example.

Several social media users in Indonesia are reporting today that they are experiencing difficulties sending multimedia messages via WhatAapp, one of the country's favorite chat apps. Posting content on Facebook also presents difficulties and the hashtag #instagramdown is trending among Indonesia’s Twitter community as there are problems accessing Facebook’s popular photo app.

A coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs – Wiranto, confirmed in a press conference that the government is limiting social media access and functions in an attempt to avoid disorders, reported Coconuts.

Indonesia’s communications minister Rudiantara, a strong critic of Facebook, commented that users will experience lag on WhatsApp when uploading video and photos.

Facebook, that owns WhatsApp and Instagram as well, mentioned that it is in communication with the Indonesian government but did not explicitly confirm the blocks.

A spokesperson told TechCrunch that Facebook is “aware of the ongoing security situation in Jakarta and have been responsive to the Government of Indonesia. We are committed to maintaining all of our services for people who rely on them to communicate with their loved ones and access vital information”.

Some Indonesia-based WhatsApp users told TechCrunch that they cannot send multimedia files such as photos, videos and voice messages through the service. They are only able to do that using Wi-Fi or mobile data services through a VPN.

Indonesia is presently dealing with strong political tension following the results of Tuesday’s presidential elections. The defeated candidate, Prabowo Subianto, said he will oppose the result in the constitutional court.

Jakarta was the theatre for six murders and more than 200 injuries last night, as the riots broke out. According to local media reports, the riots spawned misleading information and hoaxes that were spreading on social networks.

Facebook has already seen its services forcefully blocked in other countries: the company was completely banned for days in Sri Lanka after April’s terrorist strikes.

India – that concluded this week its general election – expressed concerns over Facebook’s poor ability to contain the diffusion of false information on WhatsApp.

Indonesian minister Rudiantara expressed similar views: “Facebook can tell you, ‘We are in compliance with the government’. I can tell you how much content we requested to be taken down and how much of it they took down. Facebook is the worst”.

We recently reported on the dangers of switching off communications during terrorist incidents of times of unrest.


Filippo Cestaro
Filippo Cestaro is a tech news writer with a strong focus on AI, machine learning, and big data. His interests include AI singularity and transhumanism. He is also a contributor to Scuba Zone Magazine and joined with the University of Milan to publish work on the psychology of scuba diving. [email protected]