INDONESIA: Online porn law won't affect business, say Internet cafe owners

One owner says less than 20 percent of his customers use the Internet to access adult websites

The Jakarta Post
Monday, March 31, 2008

Internet cafe (warnet) owners say a new law banning online pornography will not affect their business because it will do little to stop people from accessing adult sites.

"There are many ways for Internet users to get around any kind of block put on porn sites," said Prahasta, who runs a warnet in Tebet, South Jakarta.

He said he did not oppose the law, which is on electronic information and transaction, but doubted it would succeed in blocking access to pornographic sites.

"Porn site owners and developers have their own ways of making it easier for users to access their sites.

"For example, they can use 'subtle' names for their sites, instead of explicit ones," said Prahasta, who has run his warnet since 2007.

Another warnet owner, Yara, said he was not worried about losing customers to the new law.

"Even though the Internet is an easy source of pornographic (materials), there are still more people who use the Internet for other purposes than browsing nude pictures or downloading porn movies," said the 30-year-old owner of a warnet in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta.

He said fewer than 20 percent of his customers accessed adult-oriented websites.

"I can have around 150 customers each day, and most of them use computers to play online games, chat or update their online accounts," said Yara, who makes around Rp 800,000 (US$87) per day.

However, he said officials would find it difficult to completely block access to adult sites.

"Unless they can block people's minds from dirty thoughts, I don't see how the law would work."

Roy Suryo, a telecommunications and cyber expert who played a key role in drafting the law, said Internet providers were the key to blocking Internet pornography.

"Local Internet providers are what I like to call the upstream controllers, while Internet cafes and personal users are the downstream ones.

"If Internet providers block porn sites, then Internet cafes and personal users won't be able to access them," he said.

Roy admitted "downstream controllers" were harder to regulate because they might be getting their Internet connections from sources outside the country.

"Even if the government cuts off porn access with a local Internet provider's help, anybody with links to overseas Internet providers can still view pornographic materials," he said.

He called on the government to implement a reward system for Internet providers that block access to adult sites.

"If the government is serious about blocking online porn, it should think about rewarding local Internet providers that have direct links to overseas Internet providers," Roy said.

On March 25, the House of Representatives passed a bill threatening to jail users and providers of pornographic websites with a maximum of three years in prison or a fine of up to Rp 1 billion (US$107 million).

The Information and Communications Ministry has offered the public software to block websites with adult content, available for download at its official website.

In response to the law, several local sites have begun closing links and images containing pornographic materials.

The Internet community site kaskus.us on Saturday began blocking access to its BB17 service, which contained pornographic images and links to adult sites.

Kaskus is one of the most popular Internet sites in Indonesia. It is ranked fifth after such heavyweights as Yahoo, Friendster and Google as the most popular site in the country, according to Internet traffic tracker Alexa.com.