Indonesia is the latest nation to put a ban on social media after the government restricted the use of WhatsApp and Instagram following deadly riots yesterday. In an attempt to restore calm and curb the spread of fake news, the Indonesian government had restricted the use of social media platforms. The restrictions come amidst ongoing protests in the capital city of Jakarta. However, VPN services have provided a way for the people to bypass the restrictions put in place by the government.
Power of Social Media
Social media has enabled people to voice their opinions in a way that was unimaginable before the advent of the services. The Arab world as a whole experienced the power of social media when the people erupted against their respective government in the infamous Arab Spring during the early years of this decade.
It has been seen that Social media can be a powerful tool depending upon the hands it is in. Really creative and constructive people can use it for the betterment of the human civilisation whereas the ill elements of the society can use the same platform for spreading evil among the people.
Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto revealed in a press conference on May 22 that the government has restricted the use of some social media platforms in the country. Wiranto said that they made the decision to restrict the use of WhatsApp and Instagram as they seek to restore calm and stop the spread of fake news following deadly riots and protests in Jakarta, the nation’s capital city. “We are aware of the ongoing security situation in Jakarta and have been responsive to the Government of Indonesia. We are committed to maintaining all of our services for people who rely on them to communicate with their loved ones and access vital information,” a spokesperson told a news site. A number of Indonesia-based WhatsApp users confirmed to a news site that they are unable to send photos, videos and voice messages through the service. Those restrictions are lifted when using Wi-Fi or mobile data services through a VPN, the people confirmed. The restrictions come as Indonesia holds up with political tension following the release of the results of its presidential election on Tuesday.
Impact of Major Incidents on Social Media
For Facebook and other social media sites, seeing its services forcefully cut off in a region is no longer a rare incident. The social media site, which has a tight hold with the spread of false information in many markets, faced a similar restriction in Sri Lanka in April, when the social media site was completely banned for days amid terrorist strikes in the nation. India, which just this week concluded its general election, has expressed concerns over Facebook’s inability to contain the spread of false information on WhatsApp, which is its largest chat app with over 200 million monthly users. The internet users in the country have taken to Twitter to air their grievances, with the hashtag #instagramdown trending on the social media network. Facebook, the parent company of both WhatsApp and Instagram, didn’t confirm the restrictions.