Social media got the public talking about its influence and impact, and now, a high-powered political figure in the world’s most populous Muslim country has jumped on the bandwagon to promote the use of this powerful tool.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Tuesday that ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) should “maximize the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media to engage” citizens in the Southeast Asian region.
Indonesia is the world’s second largest market for Facebook and the third-largest for Twitter.
Yet, President Susilo is not a champion of the freedom of expression in the social media sphere. The ex-general has reportedly blamed the “Internet frenzy” for destroying traditional values, specifically by those who use online media to expose instances of deep corruption in the country.
Although the President has publicly expressed his support for the prolific use of social media, there is an exception – only if the material posted doesn’t go against the government. Three days before he made that public announcement to promote social media in ASEAN, his IT and Communications Minister, Tifatul Sembiring, said that social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, must be put under strict control because they can be used to destabilize the government. This comment is in reference to the uprisings that countries such as Tunisia and Libya had suffered as a result of the governments’ failure to control social media, according to Global Voices.
While singing the praises of the power of social media tools, it appears that the Indonesian government is also wary of the accompanying impacts that these could bring. What is clear is the intent and the resolve to censor and to control, as the President and his ministers attempt to reap the benefits while minimizing the costs of these tools.