Curbing Harmful Online Content, UNESCO ‘Social Media 4 Peace’ Project Supports Consultations with Representatives of Sexual and Gender Minorities in Indonesia

As Internet penetration is steadily increasing in Indonesia, reaching 73.7 percent of the overall population in 2021, so is the use of social media. In spite of the opportunities of such growth in terms of information access and sharing, it has also been followed by a spike in online violence towards individuals based on their gender or sexual orientations (N. A. Loasana, Online sexual abuse has more than doubled during pandemic, 25 November 2020). The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) recorded 940 reported online gender-based violence cases in 2020, an increase of 241 cases from 2019 (Komnas Perempuan, Records of violence against Women in 2020, 5 March 2021).

On 14 February 2022, UNESCO’s partner the Center for Digital Society (CfDS) gathered online researchers, representatives of gender and sexual minority groups and organizations such as the Journalists Association for Diversity ( Serikat Jurnalis untuk Keberagaman _ SeJuK ), Jakarta Feminist,, Aliansi Laki-Laki Baru (New Men’s Alliance) and GAYa Nusantara to discuss the scale of online harmful content targeting gender and sexual minorities in Indonesia, and solutions to curb that trend. This consultation was organized as part of the UNESCO project Social Media 4 Peace, a project aiming at curbing online harmful content on internet platforms and restoring social cohesion. In Indonesia, this program was launched in June, 2021. Similar programme is currently also implemented in Kenya and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As part of this project, CfDS conducted research about the regulation of online harmful content in Indonesia. To lay the foundation of the discussion, the consultations started with a presentation of the initial findings of this research.

“In 2021 only, 3,640 online harmful content targeted the gender and sexual minority communities in Indonesia. According to the study, discriminations against women and the LGBTQ+ community precedes the existence of internet but social media echoes and perpetuates the homophobic narrative circulating in the country.” Amelinda Pandu, CfDS researcher.
The CfDs research further shows that regulations and tools developed so far by platforms are not efficient to address the problem. It further highlights that the legal framework regulating online harmful content could be misused to restrict freedom of expression.

During the conversation, one advocacy and campaign manager of an NGO explained that not only women and LGBTQ+ communities are targeted online but also those who protect and advocate for their rights. According to some participants, insults and threats have become so prevalent that they get normalized on social media, particularly on new platforms such as TikTok.

Discussing on various solutions to curb online hate speech, participants highlighted some of the challenges. One is related to creating counter-narrative. Some participants underlined that LGBTQ+ content – including websites providing educational resources on SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression) – is often blocked by platforms while others fear repercussions after publishing posts on their social media platforms.

One of the organizations that actively promotes advocacy in this case stated that they have good relations and communication with the platform. Therefore, when “an attack” occurs, they can explain the content so that it will not be removed by the platform. Meanwhile, other activists which do not have a direct channel for communication with the platform choose to ignore the attacks and threats directed at them. They will most likely stop posting for a while regarding their opinions on digital platforms until things eventually calm down.

The struggle for the rights of gender and sexual minorities online and offline requires the implication of various stakeholders including activists, civil society organizations, researchers, governments, and internet platforms. By involving each of them, the UNESCO project Social Media 4 Peace funded by the European Union aims at strengthening the resilience of societies to potentially harmful content spread online while protecting freedom of expression and enhancing the promotion of peace narratives through social media.


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