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When Cute Cats Aren't Enough to Save Vimeo (or Reddit, Imgur, & 100+ Other Sites Blocked in Indonesia)

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, May 14 2014

In his 2008 talk on the Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism, Ethan Zuckerman said “if you're not getting porn in your system, it doesn't work.” The idea is that popular platforms flush with cute cats and other innocuous, user-generated content are robust enough to support more controversial content, like pornography and social and political activism. Governments around the world, however, are throwing cute cats to the wind in their quest to rid the Internet of pornography (as impossible as that must seem to people who use the Internet). The most recent victims of the porn crackdown: Vimeo, Reddit and Imgur, which are now all blocked in Indonesia.

Vimeo was blocked this week after Indonesia's Communications Ministry discovered pages like “Art of Nakedness” and “Nudie Cutie.” Reddit and the photo sharing site Imgur were blocked earlier this month.

Vimeo does not allow pornographic—that is, explicitly sexual—videos on the site, but it does permit “depictions of nudity and sexuality that serve a clear creative, artistic, aesthetic, or narrative purpose” and “non-sexual nudity.”

However, some of those videos still break Indonesia's rigid anti-pornography laws, which bans any depictions of nudity.

In 2012 the Indonesian government boasted they shut down more than one million pornographic web sites in the days before Ramadan.

One Reddit user criticized the block as “like bombing a city to kill A FUCKING FLY.”

Twitter is not impressed, either (with the decision to block Vimeo or the other 119 recently banned sites):

Like China, Indonesia has struck out at fan fiction, too:

Aulia Masna sarcastically suggested in a Daily Social post that Indonesia should just ban the whole Internet:

If sexually suggestive or explicit videos form the basis of the recommendation from TRUST+ [the part of the Communications Ministry tasked with protecting Indonesians from explicit content], then perhaps it should cast a wider net and recommend that the entire Internet be blocked from Indonesia because porn exists on it. Yes, there are useful, non-porn content and information that are available online, but the fact remains, porn is also available on the Internet and therefore by the very same logic that drove Trust+ to instruct Indonesian ISPs to block Vimeo, it should instruct them to ban all access to the Internet.

Good point. If, as Zuckerman has suggested, porn finds its way onto any half-decent digital platform, and if governments around the world continue to throw entire platforms under the bus just to get at a few “porn” sites, then where does that leave Indonesian (and Chinese and Russian) Internet users?

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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