Indonesian man Antho Nugroho, appeared at a police press conference in Jakarta this week with his head hung in shame, after being specially flown into the capital from his home province of Jambi, to apologise in person to popular Indonesian actress and TV personality Chika Jessica.
Nugroho, 33, was arrested after writing “blasphemous” comments about Jessica, referring to her as a “prostitute” and also criticising to her partner, celebrity illusionist Deddy Corbuzier, in a comment on her Instagram account, where the popular star has over 3.7 million followers.
“I am Antho Nugroho from Jambi. I want to apologise profusely because I deliberately hurt the feelings of Mas Deddy and Chika,” a chastened Nugroho said at the press conference, according to Indonesian news site Detik.
“At first I thought it was all harmless. I didn’t realise that my actions could hurt so many and are actually punishable by law.”
According to Tribun Seleb Nugroho also said “I do not hate any religion” and that it was not his intention to spread racial hatred when commenting on pictures of the young Muslim actress attending Mecca.
He claimed he was “new to social media” and that “as a layman I did not know that it was illegal.”
Nugroho said he was simply trying to court the attention of the star whom he admires.
The arrest follows the release of a circular by the Indonesian Police Chief in November 2015 that issued a warning against those spreading “hate speech” on social media, which many observers have called an attempt by the government to muzzle their critics.
There have been multiple previous arrests for people accused of slandering politicians or the government but the Jessica incident is the first high-profile instance of someone being pursued for addressing such “hate speech” at a celebrity.
It’s a marked contrast to the situation in Australia where many high profile (and low profile) women report receiving regular abuse on social media – often of a sexual or violent nature.
Australian writer and columnist Kerri Sackville is one such victim of abuse which is what inspired her to launch her #EndViolenceAgainstWomen campaign on social media to name and shame online trolls and cyber bullies.
“Women (for it is nearly always women) without good support and who are less used to dealing with trolling can be seriously affected,” she tells SBS.
“It can leave you feeling unsafe, frightened, vulnerable and depressed.”
In regard to the Indonesian case and whether similar consequences for cyber bullies could be legislated in Australia, Sackville says, “I think we need to have consequences for defamation and for threats of violence.”
“I do not think we can legislate against insults; social media will shut down. But we absolutely must legislate against threats of violence and defamation.”
It’s worth noting that Nugroho’s arrest in Indonesia on Monday came only after a diligent pursuit by the very high profile Corbuzier and Jessica, who set up a “hunting game” competition with a prize of 10 million Rupiah for anyone that could help them track Nugroho’s whereabouts
It’s not clear if Nugroho was prosecuted for his crime or if the public apology was sufficient punishment to satisfy his famous victims. The common factor between Australian cases and this one in Indonesia though seems to be that if victims wish to hold their abusers accountable, they will be required to do so themselves.
“Currently there is very little protection offered against trolling,” says Sackville. “And the reasons are largely to do with the global nature of the web.”
“The resources necessary for the Australian police to track down someone in another country and charge and prosecute them for harassment is not viable. So I have argued for better protection from trolling within social media itself.”
“Currently it is extremely difficult and time consuming to report/block someone on Twitter or Facebook, they can reappear within seconds under another pseudonym, and there are no consequences.”
Sackville’s suggestion is that social media users should be held accountable for what they post by the social media platforms that encourage them to use them.
“I believe all social media accounts should be traceable and verifiable and require identification. The end of anonymous social media accounts will go a long way to changing the culture of trolling on social media.”
“I feel passionately that social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram need to address these issues as a matter of urgency.”