Monday, April 28, 2008

Fighting Words

The other big global story about Internet law and order these days is taking place in Indonesia, which has just passed the "Electronic Information and Transactions Law" that bars online defamation -- without necessarily defining it precisely enough to prevent political abuse -- along with banning the viewing of violent and pornographic content from the web.

Unlike US news providers that have relegated the story to scattered sentences and paragraphs buried in more eye-catching news items on hot geopolitical topics such as chastity belts, UCLA's Asia Media has been doing a relatively conscientious job covering this complicated piece of legislation. Stories like "Online porn law won't affect business, say Internet cafe owners" and "Group to file review on e-law" emphasize pragmatic responses to the new strictures.
And the article from Internet Business Law Services promises to answer the following questions in its review:

What Does the Bill Say About Consumer Protection?; What About Cyber Squatting?; What Are the Rules on Electronic Contracts?; How Does the Law Define Offences of Cyber-Crime?; What Are the Punishments for Cyber-Crimes?

Despite the fact that Indonesia is home to a quarter of a billion people, human rights issues involving the nation that spent decades under a succession of regimes of dictatorship are often ignored in the United States. The
Indonesia Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI) has pointed out that the new law could limit freedom of expression in "critiques, jokes or anything in mailing lists or blogs" and that its anti-porn statute could extend to offline platforms such as "notebooks" or "flash disks" and punish those who possess adult content but are not "by any means distributing."

However, Indonesian blogger
Sonny Zulhuda published an assessment that pointed out what could be taken as the counterintuitive liberalism of certain aspects of the legislation, particularly on the question of hacking:

First of all, it is Interesting to note that `hacking’ or a mere unauthorized access to a computer or electronic system is not made an offence, in an opposite stand to the law in other major countries such as UK, Malaysia and Singapore. This is believed to be crucial since Indonesia has been known for its rampant cases on cyber crime involving hacking, web-defacing and credit card fraud.

Hacking is an offence only when, first, it is committed with the purpose of obtaining or altering information contained in that system. Secondly, it is committed with the intention to secure information classified as confidential, or that are detrimental for national security and international relations. It is argued that this provision on international relations and nation’s critical information infrastructure would provide redress for the issues of cyber-terrorism. Hacking is also an offence when it is committed against the electronic system of financial and banking industries, with the purpose of misusing it or gaining undue advantage out of it.

At least the nation's Information and Communications Ministry is offering free filtering software on its official government website.

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