Indonesia has requested Google block more than 70 LGBTQ social networking apps as part of an ongoing attack on queer online spaces.
The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology filed a request with the tech giant on Monday to remove apps like Blued, a gay dating app popular in the region, from its Play Store. Rudiantara, the Minister of Communication and Informatics, claimed federal authorities are unable to take unilateral action preventing people from downloading the apps because they are housed on the Google platform.
Although homosexuality is not explicitly illegal in Indonesia, the nation’s government has long led a targeted campaign against Blued, which self-reports a user base of 27 million globally.
Noor Izza, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Communication and Informatics, claimed in a 2016 statement the country would be banning three apps: Blued, BoyAhoy, and Grindr (note: the latter is INTO’s parent company). He referred to the social networks as “deviant sexual content” in an interview with the Agence Presse France (APF).
At the time, the country threatened to block more than 80 LGBTQ-focused apps and websites. Federal authorities referred to them as “pornography.”
“We would be pleased if the communication ministry blocked [gay apps] without hesitation because the smell of pornography is so strong on them, such as exhibiting nudity,” said Ericson Siregar, an officer with the Cybercrime Division of the Indonesian National Police, in a 2016 interview with BuzzFeed.
But the government has struggled to enforce that pledge.
Banning Blued, which operates both an app and a web-based platform, has proven a challenge for communications ministers. Rudiantara told CNN Indonesia this week that the agency has blocked Blued’s Domain Name System (DNS) several times, and on each occasion, the company switches to a new DNS.
In October of last year, the government prohibited five domains from being accessed: blued.cn, blued.tw, blued.us, bluedapp.com, and bluedofficial.tumblr.com.
But Rudiantara referred to Blued as being “slippery.”
The two-year-old crusade coincides with a crackdown on LGBTQ life in Indonesia, the world’s largest majority-Muslim country. Police have used the country’s vaguely worded laws prohibiting prostitution and pornography to target queer saunas, nightclubs, and private residences. More than 50 people were arrested at a gay party in Jakarta last October and could face up to six years in prison.
Aceh, a semi-independent province in northern Indonesia, prohibits same-sex activity under Sharia law. In May 2017, two men were caned more than 80 times in a public square after being accused of having intercourse. Onlookers reportedly demanded they be beaten harder.
Indonesia has also taken action against non-LGBTQ-specific apps like Uber, GrabCar, and Telegram in the past.