Indonesia says Google agrees to monitor negative YouTube content

People attend the YouTube Fanfest in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 23, 2016.
People attend the YouTube Fanfest in Jakarta, Indonesia, October 23, 2016. REUTERS

JAKARTA (Bloomberg) - Indonesia and  Google agreed to step up monitoring of content on YouTube after the government said it was concerned about the growing misuse of social media platforms to spread material related to terrorism, racial violence and pornography.

The world's fourth-most populous country has begun the trial of a so-called "trusted flagger system" to filter content on the video sharing website and will seek to formalise it in the coming months, Rudiantara, Communications and Information Technology minister, told reporters in Jakarta on Friday (Aug 4).

The flagging system, to be used by the ministry and local non-government groups, will be limited to YouTube and will not apply to Google's search engine, he said.

"We want to ensure content doesn't promote violence or incites divisions in the country," Rudiantara, who like many Indonesian uses only one name, said after a meeting with Google executives. Taj Meadows, Google's head of policy communications for Asia Pacific, declined to comment.

Indonesian officials and executives from Twitter Inc. agreed at a separate meeting on Friday on the need to improve monitoring of content although they didn't decide on a method.

Samuel Abrijani, director general for information applications at Communications Ministry, said the government has proposed a similar system for Twitter as the one agreed with Google.

Terrorism, Pornography

While the flagger system is already in place in many countries, including the US as well as in Europe, Indonesia will be the first country in South-east Asia to implement it, Rudiantara said. 

The world's most-populous Muslim nation has been worried about the use of social media and other Internet-based platforms for spreading material related to terrorism and racial violence, as well as pornography and child abuse.

Indonesia, a country of 260 million people, is a prolific user of social media. Last month, the government threatened to shut down the encrypted messaging app Telegram, used by several million Indonesians, if it didn't develop procedures to block unlawful content, including from people linked to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The government promised to restore some of Telegram's web-based services this week after company founder Pavel Durov promised to address Indonesia's concerns.

Facebook Inc., which counts more than 88 million Indonesians among its users, has also agreed to work with Indonesia on monitoring content, according to the Communications Ministry. The social media company will hire a team locally to counter the spread of hoaxes and negative content, it said on Wednesday.