Bigo Live, an app where users can live-stream their daily activities, had a bumpy start in Indonesia when it launched in 2016. The country has strict anti-pornography rules, which means even showing a bit too much skin can result in a ban.
Bigo was re-instated after a temporary ban after its launch, but the Indonesian IT Ministry has since stepped up efforts to supervise and monitor social media platforms. For the Singapore-based Bigo, this has meant blocking some 200,000 items of “negative content” in the past two years in Indonesia.
“The types of content that are blocked include streaming content displaying indecent clothing, indecent dance, and indecent talk. Blocking was conducted based on the findings of the monitoring team and Bigo user reports,” said Ferdinandus Setu of the IT Ministry’s public relations bureau in an official statement.
Bigo users can monetize their live videos by asking viewers for virtual gifts, which they can cash out. This evidently incentivises some users to reveal more than just their singing talent or other benign daily activities. VICE once called out Bigo for fueling Southeast Asia’s “digital sugar daddy” boom.
But Bigo and Indonesia’s IT Ministry think that the content that goes live on Bigo can be policed with the right measures, and with the help of technology.
At the beginning of the year, an IT Ministry representative along with the chairman of Bigo Live Indonesia signed an MoU, agreeing to collaborate on handling pornographic content using Artificial Intelligence.
Bigo Live claims that its platform currently has 20 million users in Indonesia.
Battling the spread of negative content on social media platforms, especially if it falls under the pornography label, has been a top priority for the IT Ministry and affects other social apps as well.
In July 2018, the Ministry blocked Chinese short video app TikTok for similar reasons. The ban was lifted after a week and TikTok promised to comply with the prevailing rules in Indonesia.
US-based blogging platform Tumblr was banned in March 2018 as it failed to comply with strict anti-pornography rules. The blocking of Tumblr lasted longer compared to TikTok and Bigo Live. The government decided to unblock Tumblr in late December 2018 after Tumblr sent an official statement to the IT Ministry regarding its commitment to clean the platform from pornographic content.
Editor: Nadine Freischlad
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