Responding to Instagram’s statement that it did not remove an account featuring web comics about being gay in Indonesia, after Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication claimed that the company had done so at the government’s request, Amnesty International Indonesia’s Executive Director, Usman Hamid, said:
“By falsely boasting of Instagram’s removal of a harmless account at their demand, the government has misled the public to sow fear among LGBTI people. This is just the latest example of state-sponsored homophobia in Indonesia.
“At a time when LGBTI people in the country face routine repression, harassment and public humiliation from government spokespeople, from security forces and from the public, it’s vital that social media remain a safe space for anyone to peacefully express themselves.
“Hateful statements are dangerous. Web comics like these are not. Indonesian authorities should be keeping all its citizens safe, including the owner of this now-vanished account. Sexual orientation and gender identity are an innate part of a person’s identity and should never be criminalized.”
On February 13, 2019, the Communications and Information Ministry claimed that Instagram had fulfilled a request to remove an account that published web comics about being gay in Indonesia. The ministry claimed that the account “promoted pornography” as regulated under Article 27 paragraph 1 of the 2008 law on Electric Information and Transactions.
An Instagram spokesperson later stated that “Instagram did not remove this account. There are a number of other reasons why an account may no longer be accessible, including, for example, if the account holder deleted the account, deactivated the account, or changed the account username.”
Amnesty are further investigating what happened and will be seeking further clarity from Instagram about what due diligence processes the company has in place, and what steps it takes when responding to such requests from the Indonesian government.
LGBTI people face regular repression in Indonesia, including arrests on spurious charges or public humiliations that amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.