Google, Twitter to Crack Down on Terror-Related Content in Indonesia

By I Made Sentana Features Dow Jones Newswires

Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Twitter Inc. agreed Friday to better police controversial online content including posts by extremists after Indonesia threatened to shut down social-media and messaging apps if they failed to stop users from spreading such content.

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Google will work with several Indonesian nongovernmental organizations, which will flag offensive videos on Google's video-sharing service YouTube, Information Technology Minister Rudiantara said.

"This shows our seriousness in clamping down on negative content," Mr. Rudiantara said.

Mr. Rudiantara said the system, which is expected to be fully functional in the next two to three months, will be focused on stemming radicalism in the world's largest Muslim-majority country. Indonesian authorities have grown increasingly concerned with local extremist groups' use of social media to spread propaganda from organizations such as Islamic State.

The new initiative will also target posts seen as fueling religious divisions and those deemed to promote the use of illegal narcotics.

The program will allow selected volunteers to flag content that violates the Google's terms of service or community guidelines in Indonesia. Google will prioritize the review of content flagged by the partners and then determine whether to remove it.

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"It is a new program we have seen in the U.S. and a number of European countries, but this might be for the first time in Southeast Asia," said Ann Levin, Google's regional director of policy and government affairs, after meeting with Mr. Rudiantara. Ms. Levin added the company will review all content flagged against the company's community guidelines.

The government's crackdown on content has raised concerns over freedom of expression online in Indonesia.

Damar Juniarto, regional coordinator of Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network, said he is concerned that the system is prone to excessive government censorship and subjective judgment, even if the platform providers determine whether to remove content.

After a separate meeting with Twitter executives, Semuel Pangerapan, director general of information application at Indonesia's Information Technology Ministry, said the company agreed to provide special access to the ministry to report offensive content that would lead to its removal. Twitter executives declined to comment.

Indonesian police have said that militants have learned to make bombs from YouTube videos and used the encrypted Telegram messaging application to promote radicalism and give instructions on carrying out recent attacks, prompting Mr. Rudiantara to limit access to the service and to threaten a ban.

Telegram Chief Executive Pavel Durov met Mr. Rudiantara on Tuesday and said that Indonesian authorities can report terror-related content to the company, which will then be reviewed by a team of moderators familiar with Indonesia's language and culture to determine whether to remove it. Mr. Rudiantara said the partial blockage of Telegram would be lifted in the near future.

Write to I Made Sentana at i-made.sentana@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 04, 2017 07:51 ET (11:51 GMT)