In an attempt to restore calm and curb the spread of fake news, the Indonesian government had restricted the use of social media platforms, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The restrictions come amidst ongoing protests in the capital city of Jakarta. However, VPN services have provided a way for the people to bypass the restrictions put in place by the government.

Indonesian Government Restricts Social Media Use to Restore Calm

Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto revealed in a press conference on May 22 that the government has restricted the use of some social media platforms in the country.

Wiranto stated that they made the decision to restrict the use of WhatsApp and Instagram as they seek to restore calm and stop the spread of fake news following deadly riots and protests in Jakarta, the nation’s capital city.

He pointed out that for the time being, the government wishes to avoid further provocation and curb the spread of false news, and it can achieve this by limiting the use of social media networks. The government will be disabling some features, the minister added.

The Communications Minister Rudiantara meanwhile stated that WhatsApp users in the country would experience lag on the messaging platform when they upload videos and pictures. Numerous internet users in Indonesia have already reported experiencing difficulties when sending multimedia messages using WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned messaging platform. They are also experiencing challenges posting content on Facebook, with many of the users facing problems accessing Instagram.

The internet users in the country have taken to Twitter to air their grievances, with the hashtag #instagramdown trending on the social media network. Facebook, the parent company of both WhatsApp and Instagram, didn’t confirm the restrictions.

However, it stated that it has been communicating with the Indonesian authorities. A spokesperson for Facebook told TechCrunch that the company is aware of the events unfolding in the Asian country, and they have been responsive to the government.

The riots and protests began after the incumbent Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin were declared winners of the April 17 elections. The governor of Jakarta, Anies Baswedan, revealed that roughly six people have died and over 200 injured as a result of the riots and protests in the country’s capital.

According to Wiranto, the authorities believe that there is a deliberate attempt by some people to create disturbances by framing security bodies and building up hate against the legitimately elected government.

VPN Allows Users to Bypass Limitations

Termed as geo-blocking, the restrictions in place on social media usage in Indonesia are for IPs addresses in the country. A WhatsApp user told TechCrunch that while they face difficulties sending pictures and videos, the restrictions don’t apply when they use Wi-Fi or mobile data services via a VPN service.

When using VPNs, users can use the IP address of other countries say, the US, UK, Canada, and others to access the internet. A VPN would hide the real IP address of the user by replacing it with the one the user connects with. Thus, once Indonesian internet users connect to WhatsApp or Instagram via VPNs, their internet activities are sent through the virtual networks, and the restrictions are lifted. Thus, allowing them to post videos and pictures via WhatsApp and Instagram without facing any difficulty.

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