Indonesia threatens to block WhatsApp over sexual content

Indonesian authorities say they will block access to the popular WhatsApp instant messaging app if it doesn't remove sexually explicit content.

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology said Tuesday on its website that it has already asked internet companies to block domain names used by Tenor, which provides animated image files known as GIFs through WhatsApp.

The government has sent three notices to WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook and widely used in Indonesia, asking it to remove pornographic content and will block the app if there's no response by Wednesday, ministry official Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan said at a news conference on Monday.

Indonesia blocked web versions of the messaging app Telegram in July because it included chat groups for Islamic State group supporters. It lifted the partial ban after Telegram co-founder Pavel Durov visited Indonesia in August and agreed on efforts to remove radical content.

Facebook's Asia spokeswoman Charlene Chian said that WhatsApp lets users search for GIFs using third-party providers and that WhatsApp can't monitor their content because communications on the app are encrypted.

"We've directed the Indonesia government to work with these third-party providers to review their content," she said.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has strict anti-pornography laws and authorities are increasingly seeking to censor online content they deem to be offensive or a threat to national unity.