Indonesia’s Government Wants To Make Memes A Crime

The country's citizens are opposed to the vague proposition which is meant to prevent cyberbullying

An internet without Harambe would hardly be an internet at all — Photo Illustration: Vocativ
Sep 29, 2016 at 3:08 PM ET

For many of us, memes have reached a level of commonplace that it’s difficult to imagine a life without them. In fact, it sounds terrible. But a world with fewer memes is exactly what the Indonesian government is hoping to achieve with a new law that will criminalize the internet’s favorite means of expression, along with other electronic communications.

Legislators are currently working to expand the purview of an existing 2008 law called the Electronic Information and Transactions Law, which makes it a crime to commit defamation online. If that sounds vague and hard to define, that’s because it is, and the public has long called for an end to the policy. But instead of walking back on its questionable policy, Indonesia’s government wants to double down by adding a provision which prohibits cyberbullying.

The Jakarta Post explains the new provision would prohibit “people posting texts, pictures, videos and memes deemed to incite fear or cause embarrassment.” So there goes any ability to joke around with your friends. While the supposed idea is to protect citizens (especially children) from being bullied, in practice it’s far more likely the law will be used to crack down on people who use humor and memes as a way of criticizing politicians during election.

Chances are the government won’t be shy about penalizing people for this behavior either. Citing data from the Southeast Asian Freedom Of Expression Network, the Jakarta Post says 200 people have been prosecuted under the existing law, and the new revisions would make it possible for the government to dish out four-year prison sentences for posting something they deem offensive.

Thus far, this strict regulation of memes hasn’t become a worldwide movement (and let’s hope it doesn’t). But be sure to enjoy your freedom to express memes, because anything could be possible under a Trump presidency.