Analysis: Why big tech’s pushback against Jokowi’s new media regulation could be bad news for Indonesian people

Analysis: Why big tech's pushback against Jokowi’s new media regulation could be bad news for Indonesian people

JAKARTA/SINGAPORE: Online platforms, news publishers, and the government must collaborate and reach agreements that are for the good of the Indonesia public, say analysts, following the introduction of a regulation on mandating digital platforms to pay media companies in Indonesia that provide them with content.

The regulation was signed by Indonesian president Joko Widodo on Tuesday (Feb 20) in a move to level the playing field between media and big tech companies. It will take effect six months after its date of issue.

“The spirit of the regulation is to … provide (a) clearer cooperation framework between them,” said Mr Widodo.

However, the regulation has already received pushback from Meta, the parent company of platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. The tech company has insisted that it does not need to pay for the news content circulating on its platforms. 

Analysts and industry players tell CNA that any divisions will be at the expense of the Indonesian people, especially as the news has a role to play in improving the country’s digital literacy, democracy and public safety. 

According to the chairperson of the Digital Literacy National Movement – also known as SIBERKREASI – Donny Bu, Indonesia has more than 221.5 million internet users who use social media as the primary channel to access information and digital content.

REVITALISING MEDIA WITH NEW REVENUE STREAMS

The secretary-general of the Indonesian Cyber Media Association (AMSI) praised the regulation as a source of income for the media.

“(This is) at a time when the media is experiencing a decline in income (through the loss of advertising revenue) due to the presence of global platforms such as Google,” Mr Maryadi – who like many Indonesians goes by one name – told CNA. 

Mr Suwarjono, the editor-in-chief of news site suara.com, shared that the news industry is now not in good condition, especially after the pandemic and due to the artificial intelligence (AI) era. 

“Disruption not only changes reader behaviour, but also changes the media business model which is no longer centered on news media. (It) moves a lot of … influencers and key opinion leaders to digital platforms,” he told CNA. 

He observed that in addition to introducing a new revenue potential for news sites, the regulation will also serve the public interest so that the digital space is not flooded with “junk information”. 

“The dominance of media business models (that rely on achieving pageviews) has contributed to the emergence of a lot of sensational content, clickbait, and content that relies too much on speed at the expense of accuracy and completeness of facts,” said Mr Suwarjono. 

BIG TECH PUSHES BACK  

A committee must be formed to ensure that digital platforms fulfil their obligations, according to the regulation. 

Chairman of the Press Council, Ms Ninik Rahayu, said that such obligations include aiding professional commercialisation, ensuring that news shared is produced only by press companies, and not facilitating the dissemination of inappropriate news content. 

She noted, however, that the regulation cannot accommodate all requests, and that it is necessary to find a common ground.

“We still have a lot to prepare in the next six months (when the regulation comes into force),” she told CNA.

A day after the regulation was introduced, technology giant Meta’s Director of Public Policy for Southeast Asia Mr Rafael Frankel, said that despite the new regulation, the firm is not obliged to pay for news content posted by publishers voluntarily.

According to CNN Indonesia, Meta claimed that its users do not go to its platforms to look for news content, and that news publishers have instead voluntarily decided to share its content on their various platforms and not the other way around.

Mr Noudhy Valdrino, the former head of Indonesia Public Policy at Meta, told CNA that Meta platforms do not actually benefit from spreading news content. 

He stressed that the government must take a balanced approach to the issue and consider both the interest of press companies as well as the importance of credible news information. 

This is especially since it is in the interest of the Indonesian people to have access to news reports, especially from widely used Meta platforms, said Mr Noudhy.