Indonesia blocks Netflix, perhaps not for the purest of motives
Wed 27 Jan 2016
According to a local media site in Indonesia, the country began blocking newly-arrived Netflix at 12am local time via IP rules applied from the nation’s largest telecommunications provisioner, Telkom. Users are said to be unable to access the video-streaming service, which recently included Indonesia in its 130-country global expansion, from any of Indonesia’s telecom providers, including WiFi.id, IndiHome and the mobile telco Telkomsel.
The Netflix platform is still available to the significantly smaller customer base using private telecommunications providers. Telkom’s Director of Consumer Service Dian Rachmawan revealed that the block has been implemented to prevent violent and pornographic content from being made accessible via the service in Indonesia. Quoting the Daily Social newspaper*, e27 quote Rachmawan thus:
“We block [Netflix] for not having permission to operate in Indonesia, and for having content that is not suitable for this country … As a state-owned enterprise, we need to set up an example and authority in conducting businesses”
Rachmawan further commented that “As a state-owned enterprise, we need to set up an example and authority in conducting businesses”, and indicated that Telkom is willing to enter a partnership with Netflix on the basis of the company removing objectionable content – the kind of initiative which Netflix is currently considering in order to open up the lucrative Chinese market. The population of Indonesia stands at nearly a quarter of a billion people, so presumably the bespoke effort is worth considering.
Vice president for corporate communications at Telkom Arif Prabowo said in a statement “Netflix’s content should adjust to regulations in Indonesia…We take this step to protect the Indonesian people.”
However among the predictable groans from Indonesians on Twitter elsewhere lies the more cynical reasoning that Indonesia’s government and major industrial partners are not willing to see such an extraordinary exit of money towards Netflix central without taking their cut. Network providers have an obvious practical rationale for this, but Tech In Asia’s editorial notes on the matter suggest that sex and violence have very little to do with the Netflix blockade:
‘The ban is sure to be controversial for many reasons, but perhaps the main one is that the government insists on imposing regulations on foreign tech companies, on the sole condition that they’re rich. In the past, Rudiantara said he must use his policies to bolster the nation’s trade deficit. An important question is: How does Netflix’s presence in Indonesia harm the nation’s macroeconomy? The firm is not dealing with physical goods, but instead offering one more option for people watch TV online.’
Netflix’s entry to Indonesia was apparently not by agreement, even though it was included in the official announcement** at the Netflix media site. As far as can be determined, Netflix has simply removed geoblocking for Indonesia, and presumably is prepared to process payment methods based in that country.