Keeping an Eye Out for Human Rights and Digital Rights in Presidential Election 2024

April 11, 2023 1:26 pm || By

Author: Zakiah Fadhila
Editor: Alfredo Putrawidjoyo

Like the public, the government is concerned about the increasingly widespread existence of buzzers that pollute information flows with hoaxes, hate speech, misinformation, and other negative content. It is feared that this phenomenon will occur again and worsen the situation in the 2024 presidential election. So, to prevent massive buzzer attacks, the Indonesian government, through the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (Kominfo), announced in January 2023 that it would use cyber patrols in 2024. According to Johnny G Plate, Minister of Communication and Information, this cyber patrol will use a cyber drone surveillance system. The system is capable of reading numerical or alphabetical data so that Kominfo can later monitor all information updates on internet sites and social media.[1] In its application, Kominfo will coordinate with the Director of Cyber Crime of POLRI as a law enforcement officer to apply sanctions in the physical space. In October 2022, Kominfo signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Polri regarding the synergy of tasks and functions in the field of communication and informatics.[2] More or less, the contents discuss the agreement to share information so that the two institutions can take action according to the functions of their respective institutions. Referring to this surveillance system, the debate between freedom and security becomes interesting.[3] Generally, the debate revolves around how increasing one comes at the expense of the other. For example, the 2013 UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression first highlighted how government surveillance seriously affects civil liberties, such as limiting ideas and thoughts up to controlling actions and words[4].

With this surveillance system in place, what does the government need to pay attention to in ensuring the Human Rights and Digital Rights of the public during the 2024 Presidential Election? This Commentary will answer this question departing from two points. First, a glance back to the 2019 election to see what can be learned from handling the buzzer phenomenon in 2019. Then, considering that Kominfo collaborates with POLRI’s Director of Cyber Crime (Dirtipidsiber),[5] or what is often known by the public as cyber police and virtual police, it is also essential to look at the surveillance conducted by the government in cyberspace. 

A Glimpse into the 2019 Presidential Election 

Cyber patrols in presidential elections are not new. This system was already implemented in the 2019 election. However, only a few regions had used it at that time to tackle hoaxes. Such as in Temanggung police,[6] Jember police,[7] and Metro Jaya police.[8] However, despite being guarded, the 2019 election was still marked by riots. This happened in Jakarta on May 22, 2019, due to dissatisfaction and rejection of the 2019 election results.[9] Rudiantara, Minister of Communication and Information at the time, explained in a press conference that the riot was followed by the spread of provocative videos and photos on social media and then spread more widely through messaging applications.[10] Because of this riot, the government chose to limit and stop the use of social media. In particular, the spread of videos and images was slowed down to a halt on certain social media platforms, such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.[11] The purpose was to limit political buzzers from spreading hoaxes that could exacerbate the riot.[12] 

What is problematic is how the government restricts the use of social media as the first option to defuse the situation. This is problematic because the government claims threats to national security as a response to the buzzer phenomenon.[13] However, Indonesia does not include a clear explanation or a firm legal basis when mentioning national security when restricting or stopping the Internet. Based on research conducted by Novianti et al. (2021), it turned out that no motive was found that could explain the riot, which was claimed to be severe due to buzzer provocation, as a threat to national security.[14] In conclusion, restricting the use of social media to defuse riots is completely unsubstantiated and does not meet the requirements to be called a national security threat. Instead, it should be seen as a domestic issue that can be addressed by working with the local government. 

The tendency of the Indonesian government to use internet slowdown/shutdown during riots needs to be addressed. Internet shutdown should be the last option to deal with the rampant hoax, misinformation, and hate speech by buzzers. Even if an internet shutdown is the only thing that can be done, it should be noted that the Government must officially declare and explain the enactment of a state of emergency.

Police and the Stricter Surveillance in Cyberspace

In 2020, the criminalization of internet users under the pretext of spreading hoaxes has become more frequent.[15] Many citizens were charged with the Electronic Information and Transaction Law (ITE Law). At least cases of criminalization against netizens rose from 24 to 84 cases. 64 of the 84 cases were subject to “elastic laws”, such as hate speech (27 cases), defamation articles (22 cases), and false news articles (12 cases). SAFEnet later assessed this criminalization of internet users by the police as a sign that Indonesia had entered alert one of the digital authoritarian eras. The following year, 2021, was not getting any better. The police are still more focused on following up on cases related to the three elastic laws. The police in Solo became the most active virtual police who directly arrested citizens for their social media activities.[16] Not only were they arrested, several pro-democracy activists also had their social media accounts removed and their WhatsApp hacked after criticizing the authorities or the government.[17] In fact, there are still complaints about other cases, such as Online Gender-Based Violence, that occur most often, yet there is still no special attention and action from interested parties.[18] 

Taken together, SAFEnet’s major criticism of the police presence in cyberspace is that it is a form of state surveillance and an invasion of the public’s private space.[19] If there is no attempt to address this, the concern remains that Indonesia will soon enter the era of digital authoritarianism. SAFEnet’s concern is legitimate when we compare Indonesia with Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. Referring to the democracy report issued by Varieties of Democracy (V-DEM) in 2022, Cambodia is classified as an electoral autocracy, and the other three countries are classified as authoritarian.[20] Research conducted by Sombatpoonsiri and Luong (2022) shows that there are tendencies for the four countries to persecute internet users, pressure Internet Service Providers and social media to remove content considered fake news, restrict monitoring on social media, and conduct internet shutdowns.[21] This tendency arises from how the government wants to “fight fake news”. Yet, there is an unclear policy on how they define fake news. All four countries have been shown to target the general public, journalists, opposition activists and politicians. Indonesia is still classified as an electoral democracy in the democracy report 2022. However, departing from the same idea, several components of Indonesia’s Minister of Communication and Information Regulation No. 5 of 2020 (MR5) align with the policies used by the four countries.[22]

Indonesia’s  MR5 normalizes the government’s actions in criminalizing internet users who are perceived to be spreading fake news on social media. The ambiguity of Permenkominfo 5/2020 also encourages private electronic system operators to monitor illicit content and even encourages self-censorship by platform providers. In fact, internet service providers in Indonesia will block platforms that do not comply within 12 hours of the appearance of illicit content.[23] Not only that, but virtual police also monitor and criminalize internet users who are deemed problematic. Like the four countries above, Indonesia also uses the eradication of buzzers and fake news as the main reason for targeting the general public, journalists, and activists suspected of criticizing government actions and policies.[24] In 2020, 50 citizens, 15 activists, and a journalist were targeted.[25] Then, in 2021, there were 10 activists and 7 citizens targeted.[26] The similarity between the laws used by the Indonesian government and the four countries above further proves SAFEnet’s concern about the potential for Indonesia to enter the era of digital authoritarianism.

By cooperating with the National Police in Kominfo’s cyber patrol, it is necessary to ensure the absence of an abuse of power in the name of spreading hoaxes and accusations of buzzers that end up sacrificing the private space of the public who are free to express opinions, expressions, and obtain information via the internet.[27] The government must clearly state the measures they will use to determine what constitutes fake news, hate speech, and hoax, and what does not.


Approaching the 2024 election, the government is prioritizing eradicating buzzers and fake news. One of them is by using a cyber patrol system and cooperating with the National Police. However, if we look at 1) how Indonesia used internet shutdown in handling the riot in the 2019 presidential election due to massive buzzer attacks and 2) how the strict policy of MR5, which regulates patrols and surveillance on social media, normalizes the criminalization of internet users by the police, then there are concerns about the abuse of power by the government in the name of eradicating political buzzers. In light of this, improvements by avoiding authoritarian actions and policies are important so that the 2024 election will be successful and free from intimidation and oppression by the Indonesian government in cyberspace.

[1] Johnny Plate Klaim Tangkal 1.321 Hoaks: Kominfo Punya Cyber Drone. (2023). Retrieved from 

[2] Video: Polri-Kominfo Teken MoU Perkuat Keamanan Digital Pemilu Baca artikel Cnn Indonesia . (2023). Retrieved from 

[3] Herranz de Rafael, G., & Fernández-Prados, J. S. (2022). The Security Versus Freedom Dilemma. An Empirical Study of the Spanish Case. Frontiers in Sociology, 7, 6.

[4] Nyst, C. (2013). Two sides of the same coin – the right to privacy and freedom of expression. Privacy International. Retrieved from

[5] POLRI. (2023). Polri Masifkan Patroli Siber Antisipasi Hoaks Jelang Pemilu 2024. Website Resmi Polri . Retrieved from 

[6] Polisi Temanggung giatkan Patroli Siber Jelang Pemilu 2019. (2018). Retrieved from 

[7] Hatta, M. (2018). Jelang Pemilu, Polres Jember Inisiasi Bentuk Siber patrol. Retrieved from 

[8] Polda Metro Jaya Tingkatkan Patroli Siber Jelang Pemilu 2019. (2019). Retrieved from 

[9] Budiansyah, A. (2020). Ricuh Tolak Hasil Pemilu, Akses ke Whatsapp & Medsos Dibatasi. CNBC Indonesia. Retrieved from 

[10] Kartika, D. (2019). 22 Mei Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp Ditutup Sementara, menteri Kominfo Beri Penjelasan. Retrieved from 

[11] BBC. (2019). Instagram, WhatsApp: Aplikasi Media sosial dibatasi Untuk Menangkal Penyebaran Konten Hoaks. BBC News Indonesia. Retrieved from 

[12] Budiansyah, A. (2020). Ricuh Tolak Hasil Pemilu, Akses ke Whatsapp & Medsos Dibatasi. CNBC Indonesia. Retrieved from

[13] Ibid

[14] Noviyanti, N., Noval, S. M. R., & Jamaludin, A. (2021). Pembatasan Akses Internet oleh Pemerintah saat Terjadi Unjuk Rasa dan Kerusuhan di Papua dan Papua Barat Ditinjau dalam Perspektif Hak Asasi Manusia. Logika: Jurnal Penelitian Universitas Kuningan, 12(01), 42-55.

[15] Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network. (2021). Peluncuran Laporan Situasi Hak-Hak Digital 2020 Represi Digital di Tengah Pandemi. Retrieved from

[16] Zamani, L. (2021). 3 Aksi Polisi Virtual Solo Tangkap Orang karena komentar di dunia maya halaman all. Retrieved from 

[17] Prabowo, K. W. (2021). Polisi Siber Dinilai Belum Mampu Melindungi Aktivis Prodemokrasi. Retrieved from 

[18] Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network. (2021). Peluncuran Laporan Situasi Hak-Hak Digital 2020 Represi Digital di Tengah Pandemi. Retrieved from

[19] Prabowo, K. W. (2021). Polisi Siber Dinilai Belum Mampu Melindungi Aktivis Prodemokrasi. Retrieved from 

[20] Varieties of Democracy. (2022). DEMOCRACY REPORT 2022: Autocratization Changing Nature? Retrieved from

[21] Sombatpoonsiri, J., & Luong, D. N. A. (Eds.). (2022). Justifying Digital Repression via “Fighting Fake News” A Study of Four Southeast Asian Autocracies. ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute Singapore.

[22] Lazarus, E. (2021). The authoritarian threat of Indonesia’s latest internet Bill. Lowy Institute. Retrieved from 

[23] Ibid

[24] Indonesia: FREEDOM ON THE NET 2021 country report. Freedom House. (2021). Retrieved from 

[25] Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network. (2021). Laporan Situasi Hak-Hak Digital 2020 Represi Digital di Tengah Pandemi. Retrieved from

[26] Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network. (2022). Laporan Situasi Hak-Hak Digital 2021 Pandemi Memang Terkendali Tapi Represi Digital Terus Berlanjut. Retrieved from 

[27]SAFEnet Kritik Aksi Virtual police Terobos Ruang Privat Warga. CNN Indonesia. (2021). Retrieved from