[PRESS RELEASE] Discussing Freedom of Expression on Internet: Study Comparison in Indonesia and USA | Difussion #54

August 9, 2021 6:30 pm || By

Google Meet, July 2nd, 2021 — The existence of the internet has lots of beneficial impacts. Freedom of Speech and Expression on various issues is a part of the internet’s advantage. However, every country has its own threshold about these issues. For example, comparing Freedom of Speech and Expression regulations in Indonesia and the USA, Indonesia has the Law of Electronic Information and Transaction (UU ITE). Meanwhile, the USA’s rule on this matter is based on the first amendment to the United States Constitution about Civil and Political Law. Then how is the implementation between the two countries? (link: https://youtu.be/dSyAZX9ptfQ).

Defining Freedom of Expression on the Internet

Freedom of Expression is seen as one of the basic principles of modern democracy related to civil freedom to develop and fulfill individual rights. John Stuart Mill, as a classical liberalism philosopher, thought that freedom of expression and freedom of act were two kinds of different things. Freedom of Expression is defined as not touching or doing something detrimental to others physically. Meanwhile, freedom of act is restricted to other people’s rights.

The Law of Electronic Information and Transaction in Indonesia regulates Freedom of Speech and Expression in various substances. Some of the articles can be judged as multi interpretations, such as:

  • Article 27 paragraph (3) concerning Defamation

This article is vulnerable to entangling political opponents because there is no category of defamation or humiliation.

  • Article 28 paragraph (2) concerning Hate Speech between Groups

This article is problematic due to the absence of the measurement of intergroup feeling. Etymologically, the Dutch used groups in the colonial era to separate colonists and natives so that the contexts cannot be relevant right now.

Aside from Indonesia, Fajar also explained that the UN has its specification concerning hate speech, namely, “A message can be categorized as hate speech when it loads call of violence. This is based on four definitions: (1) contains hatred for race and ethnicity; (2) calls for crime, hostility, and discrimination; (3) incitement to commit acts of terrorism; (4) incitement to commit genocide.”

He also added, “The USA considers Freedom of Expression is not a right to life which is an inviolable right. Instead, it is absolute and followed by certain limitations. This is because the US adheres to common law with states taking on certain limitations, including Freedom of Expression.”

Cases on Freedom of Expression

Freedom of Expression (FoE) also has problems based on moral standards and different regulations between countries. In Indonesia, FoE is considered a dilemma. On the one hand, FoE can encourage people to be actively involved in state life, both formal and informal. But, on the other hand, there is the threat of the ITE Law with its rubber articles. An example of FoE problems in Indonesia occurred when the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) used Article 28 paragraph (2) regarding hate speech to criminalize Jerinx SID regarding allegations that IDI was a lackey of WHO.

Meanwhile, in the USA, Alfredo gave an example of Tom Cotton’s opinion on the New York Times’ opinion-editorial column about Black Lives Matter (BLM). Cotton wrote about the deployment of the national guard to control and protect some cities in the USA. The community judged the opinion as insensitive.

In addition, there is also a case of blocking Donald Trump’s account by Twitter for his tweets about the US election being invalid due to fraud. On the other hand, Facebook blocked some users against Trump but denied that this was an algorithm error. However, section 230 considers that private companies like social media cannot be subject to these regulations because they are content distributors with third parties as publishers.

Regulations Revision, Social Media, and Cancel Culture

Regarding UU ITE, Fajar contended that it still needs to be revised mainly about the definition and protection of personal data. Furthermore, the implementation of the Regulation of the Ministry of Communication and Information (Permenkominfo) still leaving a question mark.

Social media owned by private companies is a means to express opinions both by individuals and communities. Nevertheless, social media has control by the community or users over existing views, namely, cancel culture. Cancel culture itself is a mechanism to account for the opinions of figures who are considered significant, disruptive, and (relatively) contra. Alfredo argued, “Cancel culture is not only blocked, but also followed by narrative information against the hegemonic people who are canceled. When this is done, it means that aspects that influence, namely what the opinion is and who has the opinion.”

In the end, the challenge to Freedom of Expression comes from the state, oneself, and the social media algorithms at work. In addition to regulatory revisions, each individual’s digital literacy needs to be improved to be able to leave useless narratives.

Author: Septiana Noor Malinda

Editor: Ruth Simanjuntak & Aridiva Firdharizki