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If Trump‘s job was to punish every internet user who ridiculed him with a meme, he’d sure have a lot of work to do. Luckily, U.S. netizens have enough freedom of speech to laugh at him as often as Harambe memes appear on Twitter.
Yet making the use of memes illegal is not out of this world. Indonesia’s government is looking to criminalize internet users for posting them.
Its Electronic Information and Transactions Law (ITE) punishes any electronic media communication that incites fear or embarrassment under its defamation article. The public has continuously called for the article’s removal, but instead Indonesia is introducing more restrictions to freedom of expression. Posting memes, texts, pictures, or videos would be punishable if found to have a defamatory or slanderous tone.
According to the Indonesian government, this provision stands to prevent and control cyberbullying. But it can further be used as a political tool against opposition during elections.
Citizens reproach this act, as there are no clear rules that define what is considered offensive. The government decides and is often ambiguous about it.
Since its implementation in 2008, 200 people have been prosecuted according to data from the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network. Among the most notable cases, was the prosecution of Prita Mulyasari in 2009 for complaining about Omni International Hospital services on an online mailing list.
Critics of this article dismiss the government’s claim to prevent cyberbullying as it is only an oppression of free speech.
H/T Jakarta Post
Nidia Cavazos is a multimedia journalist with an emphasis on political reporting. She's contributed to Univision, KXAN, and USA Today College, and she was named one of six NBC Fellows by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in 2017.