Indonesia is preparing tough new rules that will allow it to criminally charge and fine internet and social media platforms, Reuters reported on Wednesday, quoting sources.

Quoting sources from companies and government, Reuters reported that some executives of online firms briefed on the plans warned the measures will be hard to comply with, raise their operating costs, and could undermine freedom of expression in the country.

The new rules, which build upon internet regulations from 2019, mean companies will be required to take down content deemed “unlawful” within four hours if a request is designated as “urgent”, the sources said. Other requests, which can come from any government agency, will have to be met within 24 hours, according to the report.

The measures, which are being drafted by the country’s finance and communications ministries, are due to be finalized soon and brought in from June, the sources told Reuters.

Such rules could potentially slow online firms’ rapid growth in a $70 billion market. Indonesia is one of the world top-10 markets by the number of users for social media firms including Youtube, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp. Indonesia is also the world’s fourth most populous country.

Officials reportedly informed internet firms that “urgent government requests” would include content perceived as “sensitive” in areas such as “security, terrorism and public order, child protection, and pornography”, two sources said.

After receiving an official complaint, companies will be fined per item of content, with fines rising the longer content stays on platforms, according to three sources and a government document reviewed by Reuters.

Fines will be determined by the company size in terms of local users and the “content severity”, according to the document. The quantum of fines is still to be finalized but could amount to millions of rupiah per item.

Sources said platforms that fail to comply with government requests on too many occasions could be blocked in Indonesia and their staff might also face criminal sanctions.

The regulations will apply to all internet and digital platforms determined to be “internet system operators”, ranging from social media giants to e-commerce and FinTech companies as well as telecommunication firms, according to the report.

Elsewhere in Vietnam, social media firms are required to remove offending content from their platforms within a day of receiving a request from the authorities. India gives companies 36 hours windows to remove, with possible criminal sanctions if they do not comply, the report added.

The “trigger” for Indonesia’s tougher measures was a flood of unlawful online content ranging from fraud to political and coronavirus hoaxes or disinformation, one government official familiar with the matter was quoted as saying.

The regulations are expected to have the largest impact on social media firms, which count Indonesia’s youthful population of 270 million as a huge opportunity for growth.

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