INDONESIA has threatened to shut down Facebook, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, amid concerns that personal data of citizens is being harvested and the spread of fake news ahead of the country’s elections.
Communications Minister Rudiantara said the country feared social media platforms like Facebook could corrupt the presidential race by influencing its outcome.
The threat came following the social media giant’s fallout over revelations that the data of 50 million of its users were given to a firm that helped US President Donald Trump’s campaign.
“If I have to shut them down, then I will do it,” Rudiantara said in an interview recently, pointing out that the country had blocked the messaging app Telegram over concerns that it was used by militants.
“I did it. I have no hesitation to do it again.”
The Bloomberg report said the warning extends Facebook to other platforms including Twitter Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which owns YouTube, and a host of other social media companies, who have previously agreed to work with the government to monitor content.
With a 260 million population in Southeast Asia’s largest economy, Indonesia boasts the highest number of users in the region with more than 115 million users.
Like its neighbours Singapore and Malaysia, Indonesia is looking to tackle the problem of fake news.
Rudiantara, who goes by only one name, said social media platforms could face severe penalities if they failed to comply with the 2016 decree on the protection of personal information.
“There are administrative sanctions. I can issue the warning letter to them. There will also be criminal sanctions,” he said, adding Facebook employees could face up to 12 years in jail and a fine of up to IDR 12 billion (US$873,000).
“I want an undertaking that there were no Indonesian Facebook users whose information or data was used by Cambridge Analytica,” he said.
“If that is the case, I can chase them, ask the police.”
The communications minister, in a simple message to the social media platforms, added: “If you are not able to manage your platform to support the stability of Indonesia that means your intention to be in Indonesia is not for business, it’s for something else.”