In a battle to combat online extremism and a surplus of fake news on social media, the world’s largest Muslim majority country, Indonesia, has launched a new cyber security agency.
Internet hoaxes have reached an all-time high while millions of Indonesians are going online for the first time. The recent high-profile case where fake news was published on social media that Beijing was seeking to wage biological warfare against Indonesia is just one example.
The viral hoax prompted the Chinese embassy to issue a statement saying that the reports were “misleading”. Indonesian president Joko Widodo appointed Major General Djoko Setiadi, former chairman of Indonesia’s encryption agency to lead the new agency.
Cracking down on terrorist networks which communicate online and fight hate speech on the web will be a few of Setiadi’s responsibilities. “We will control cyberspace,” Setiadi said Wednesday. “Our technology will not only be able to detect, but also to penetrate [terrorist] networks.” He added.
Chief Security Minister Wiranto, added: “We need this body to help maintain security nationally, regionally and globally.” Last week, Indonesia said it was adding some 600 more personnel to the ranks of its counter-terrorism police in a bid to crack down on Islamic State-inspired groups and other militants.
The archipelago nation has long struggled with extremism and attacks, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, in the country’s worst-ever terror attack.
A sustained crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks but the emergence of IS has proved a potent new rallying cry for radicals. Hundreds of Indonesian radicals flocked to fight with IS, sparking fears that weakened extremist outfits could get a new lease of life.
Meanwhile, more than 150 million out of 255 million Indonesians are now estimated to be Internet users. The explosion in the number of Internet users comes amid global concern about the spread of fake news, with some critics claiming a flood of false stories circulating online may have helped Donald Trump win the US presidential election.
Still, some worry that Indonesia’s new cyber agency could threaten privacy rights. “It would be really unfortunate if it was going to be used to monitor public discussions because that is people’s right,” said Internet privacy expert Nukman Luthfie.