Islamists protest against Facebook in Jakarta

Protesters make their feelings clear about alleged discrimination yesterday, after the social media giant blocked some pages operated by hardline groups.
Protesters make their feelings clear about alleged discrimination yesterday, after the social media giant blocked some pages operated by hardline groups. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA • Several hundred Indonesian Islamists held a protest rally outside Facebook's headquarters in Jakarta, accusing the social media giant of discrimination for blocking some pages operated by hardline groups for allegedly spreading hate.

The protesters, many dressed in white and including members of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), marched from a mosque to Facebook's offices in the capital of the world's biggest Muslim-majority country.

"We want to remind Facebook to remain neutral and balanced," Mr Slamet Maarif, a spokesman for FPI, told reporters yesterday. "There are many accounts that spread hate about Islam, ulamas, that are allowed to operate. There are accounts that talk about Islamic humanitarian aid, those are blocked," said Mr Maarif, adding that the group still planned to use Facebook and would open new accounts.

Facebook said its policy was to delete content that violated its community standards. "Our community standards are made to prevent organisations or individuals that urge hate speech or violence against those who hold different views," said a company representative.

Indonesia's Communications Ministry said it had not asked for FPI's accounts to be closed.

Some Indonesian Islamist groups use social media extensively and FPI usually has about 100 accounts on Facebook, as well as on other social media platforms like Twitter.

The rally was peaceful, though more than 1,200 police officers were brought in, media said.

Indonesians are avid users of social media and Facebook had 115 million users in the second quarter of last year, according to media citing its country manager, ranking the country fourth globally.

Some of the protesters on Friday made live video streams of the rally to air via Facebook.

The vast majority of Indonesians practice a moderate form of Islam, though a reputation for religious tolerance has come under scrutiny as hardline groups muscle their way into public and political life in the young democracy.

President Joko Widodo has expressed concerns over hoax stories and hate speech being spread online, and pledged to"clobber" any group threatening to destroy Indonesia's tradition of pluralism and moderate Islam.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2018, with the headline 'Islamists protest against Facebook in Jakarta'. Print Edition | Subscribe