Recently, the Indonesian Ministry of Communications and Information (MCIT) announced plans of developing a search engine to improve cyber monitoring capability. Although such plans were mentioned before in connection with the launch of MCIT’s “Cyber Drone 9” system, the new announcement is largely related on the department’s efforts to prevent online gambling websites from operating in Indonesia.

Digital connectivity has improved the way Indonesian communicate for business and entertainment purposes. However, it also became apparent that digital connections are being used by anti-government groups to spread negative information that aims to incite religious intolerance. As it is, the rise in the proliferation of negative content by extremists elements is a major focus of the Cyber Drone 9 system, while the issue of online gambling in Indonesia had been temporarily relegated as a lesser priority.

However, the Indonesian government is now saddled with nationwide health problems caused by the global pandemic, and the resulting economic fallout due to lost businesses affected by the global economic crisis. The government’s poor response in handling the pandemic, has given political activists more reasons to rouse people to join protest actions. One of which is the Widodo government’s plan of deregulating environmental laws as a means to pave the way for foreign investors.

While the MCIT is pushing its Cyber Drone 9 to detect and identify the websites that contain negative content as well as those that offer online gambling, it is also requesting lawmakers to provide the funds that MCIT needs to build a more sophisticated search engine tool.

Indonesia’s Cyber Monitoring System Needs More than Just AI

According to the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), despite the Cyber Drone 9 system’s use of artificial intelligence (AI) as tools for monitoring violations of the country’s cyber laws, Cyber Drone 9 does not have the capability to gather personal information about the violators. In addition, Cyber Drone 9 is manned 24/7 by a team of 58 people whose tasks is to review and manually analyze whatever information collected by AI’s web crawlers across websites and social media accounts.

The IPAC also reported that as far as monitoring of Indonesian extremists are concerned, certain groups are able to discover low-tech methods of penetrating the blocks. The use of large, semi-public channels like Telegram in combination with encrypted communication, has rendered the Cyber Drone 9 system ineffective.

Sophisticated, offshore online gambling websites on the other hand, use highly encrypted communication that can keep all information private and untraceable. Although the MCIT recently released a Daftar Judi Online websites found in the web, browser-based domains do not serve as official gambling sites.

Inasmuch as the government is unable to directly confront and deal with the violators even if local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are able to block banned websites, the IPAC put forward a recommendation on how to best tackle the challenges faced by the MCIT. It recommends that in dealing with encrypted information, the government must institute coordination among intelligence units, Internet blockers and members of the Cyber Drone 9 to properly analyze both online and offline information.