Indonesia softens warning to Tumblr after outcry

Indonesians were up in arms online after the government threatened to block popular blog-hosting website Tumblr over pornographic images posted by some of its users.

“Internet service providers can’t block particular accounts so we have asked Tumblr to adjust its content in line with [Indonesian] regulations and values,” the Information Ministry said Thursday.

The statement came after an official at the ministry said it would block access to the site in Indonesia, where downloading pornography is punishable by up to four years in prison under a 2008 law.

The ministry’s warning came as President Joko Widodo met chief executives of US tech giants in San Francisco as part of his push to make Indonesia a technology and e-commerce hub.

Tumblr does specifically tolerate explicit material, duly flagged, but it is also a leading mainstream image-sharing website, leading some to question the appropriateness of blocking it during the visit.

“Imagine you’re @jokowi in Silicon Valey and you have to explain to @jack and especially @marissamayer that Indonesia just blocked Tumblr,” tweeted user Gita Putri, referring to the president, Twitter’s chief executive Jack Dorsey and Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer.

“Why busy banning tools like Vimeo and (almost) Tumblr and pushed all [social media] to adjust to us. Why not busy developing our people, Mr @Jokowi?” another Twitter user said.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg posted a photo of him playing a zero gravity game with Joko after their meeting on Wednesday at the social network’s headquarters.

Indonesia has blocked hundreds of websites for “negative content,” including popular video-sharing service Vimeo.com and social network platform Reddit.com.

Indonesia is one of the world’s biggest markets for social media services such as Facebook and Twitter, with Jakarta being the most active Twitter city in the world in 2012.

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