Rights group accuses virtual police of becoming 'new tool of repression'

Kompas.com – May 6, 2021
Members of the South Sulawesi police cyber crimes unit – Undated (teknologi)

Tsarina Maharani, Jakarta – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) says that the virtual police unit initiated by Indonesian police chief (Kapolri) General Lusty Sight Prabowo has become a new tool of repression in the digital world.

Kontras Deputy Coordinator Rivaled Anandar said that the virtual police's operations tend to act against and regulate the free expression of citizens.

In addition to this, most of the warnings and issued by the virtual police have targeted social media users who actively criticise the government.

"The Kapolri has in fact realised the virtual police as a new tool of repression in the digital world", said Anandar in a press release on Thursday May 6.

According to Anandar, the virtual police should be taking action against those perpetrating crimes on social media, such as online scams, the spread of pornographic content, online sexual harassment and racism.

"[But] we are not seeing this", he said.

The virtual police were an initiative by Prabowo in response to a directive by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo that police use care in applying the Information and Electronic Transaction Law (ITE). The virtual police began operating in mid-February.

The virtual police's mandate is derived from Indonesian Police Chief Circular Number SE/2/11/2021 on Ethical Cultural Awareness to Create a Digital Space in Indonesia which is Clean, Healthy and Productive.

The virtual police's job is to monitor social media activities and report to their superiors if they find content which could potentially violate the ITE Law. The content is then referred to criminal, language and ITE Law experts for an opinion.

If there is potential for a crime to be committed, the content is forwarded to the Cyber Crime Action Director or an appointed official. Following their agreement, the virtual police send a warning to the owner of the social media account.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Kontras Sebut "Virtual Police" Jadi Alat Represi Baru".]

Source: https://nasional.kompas.com/read/2021/05/06/16065971/kontras-sebut-virtual-police-jadi-alat-represi-baru