Since its inception in November 2020, the Regulation issued by the Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Kominfo), Regulation Number 5 of 2020 on Private Electronic System Operators (PSEs), has been predicted to become a repressive policy instrument that violates human rights. This Regulation Number 5/2020 (Perkominfo) adds to the long list of threats to freedom of expression, the right to information, and privacy from the Indonesian government. Based on the Perkominfo 5/2020, the government announced in June 2022 that it would block tech companies that do not officially register as PSEs in the country until 20 July 2022, sparking public concern and criticism across the country.
On 18 May 2021, the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet) reached out to the Ministry of Communication and Information (Kominfo) conveying several substantial criticisms of the regulation and a series of recommendations. Shortly after, on 28 May 2021, a coalition of 25 Indonesian and international human rights organisations sent an open letter to Indonesia’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology to express concerns about the Regulation’s impact on the rights to freedom of expression and privacy. However, the government did not respond to the criticisms and recommendations made by several NGOs. Instead, it announced in June 2022 that it would block unregistered tech companies.
Public criticism strengthened again at the end of July 2022, when the government acted on its announcement and blocked eight high-traffic sites and applications that were not officially registered as PSEs: PayPal, Yahoo, Epic Games, Steam, Dota, Counter-Strike, Xandr.com, and Origin (EA). Strong reactions and complaints were shared across social media. As a result of the blockage many people, could no longer make transactions or access their income. A photojournalist shared in the social media post opened on the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) Indonesia account that he has used Paypal for ten years to receive royalty payments for photos he sells. Another journalist said that his employee uses Paypal to transfer monthly salaries.
Within seven days from 30 July to 5 August 2022, an LBH Jakarta complaint post received 213 complaints about the PayPal blockage. The complainants consisted of 211 individuals and two companies with various occupations. The most complaints about an issue were related to the impact of Paypal’s blocking, which reached 64%. Most complainants are freelancers (48%), private employees (14%), developers (12%), students (12%) to others such as lecturers, musicians, and entrepreneurs. Of the 213 incoming complaints, 194 complainants explained the problem of the impact of the policy, while the remaining 18 were in the form of support, policy protests to legal questions. 62 complainants attach proof of loss where the total loss is estimated to reach more than one and a half billion rupiah.
A total of 11,478 people filled out the #ProtesNetizen petition via the s.id/protesnetizen page. On July 30, 2022, the hashtag #BlokirKominfo went viral and took the first position as Trending Topic in Indonesia. Based on DroneEmprit’s data and analysis from July 19 to 30, 2022, 81 per cent of netizens involved in conversations related to PSE policies gave negative sentiments towards Kominfo’s steps in blocking PSE.
Finally, public pressure led the government to temporarily unblock PayPal and four other platforms. The government allowed access to PayPal on Sunday 31 July 2022. The Director General of Applications and Informatics at Kominfo, Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan, said that the government temporarily unblocked PayPal because of the many inputs from civil society and because it is a widely used platform for financial services. The access was restricted to five working days, from Monday 1 August to Friday 5 August 2022. He appealed to the public to use this time to migrate the other financial services platform.
In the meantime, on 4 August, PayPal registered as PSE as recorded on the Kominfo website. Likewise, seven other companies have registered with the PSE as recorded on the Ministry of Information and Communications site. This of course avoids further public criticisms and complaints from users, but it is far from being a solution. Implementing the Perkominfo 5/2020 threatens freedom of expression and the right to privacy.
The Digital Freedom Advocacy Team consisting of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH), the Press Legal Aid Institute (LBH Pers), the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Media and Creative Workers Union for Democracy (SINDIKASI) requested on 26 August 2022 that Perkominfo 5/2020, which was used as the basis for the series of harmful blocking actions be immediately revoked.
Perkominfo 5/2020 grants the government overbroad authority to regulate PSEs activity and gives authorities access to user data. It governs both local and international PSEs, requiring registration and designation of contact person(s) in Indonesia, who may be at risk of arbitrary reprisal for failure to comply with overbroad requests. It also introduces excessive penalties for non-compliance, from fines to full shutdown of services in Indonesia.
Article 19 has reviewed Perkominfo 5/2020 in a legal analysis available here (PDF).
SAFEnet has published a position paper, analysing Perkominfo 5/2020, available here (PDF).