22 November 2008

Anonymous Blogging, Wordpress, and the Prophet

This story is a couple of days old and I have been too lazy to write about it before. However, I figured I should as I have recently made a presentation relating to the recently enacted Information and Electronic Transactions Law (ITE Law).

The story is that there is an anonymous blogger in town and they are posting a comic strip of the Prophet Muhammad which has riled the sensibilities of many Muslims. What caught my attention was the headline in the Jakarta Post which reads "Govt to pressurize Wordpress into disclosing blogger's ID". I am not sure that pressurize is the right word for this sentence. I am guessing that it is like terrorizing using pressure to get a pressurize situation.

The language choices aside, there are just a couple of points that are worth making here.

If you think that you are anonymous then make sure that you are smart enough to know how to use the technology to make it so. The government is demanding that Wordpress reveal the identity of the blogger because the content of the offending blog is deemed to be a cyber crime. The threat is that if Wordpress does not disclose the blogger's identity then the National Police Force's Digital Forensic Lab is going to get involved and uncover the blogger's identity themselves.

It seems that there is still a fair amount of road to be travelled in terms of what constitutes free speech and freedom of expression, particularly in light of Article 27 of the new ITE Law.


Anonymous said...

I'm starting to get sick with all these cartoon controversies. Why can people understand that a cartoon is a cartoon, and it's not more than that.

The bigger the reaction is, the more attention it gets.

rima fauzi said...

you know, I have given up even thinking about this. there are just people in the world that are like trash, smelly, vile, bad and it'd be best just to ignore them. and i'm not only talking about the cartoon maker, but those who make such a big fuss over it.

Brett said...

I'm not sure what your saying, but try this: what if this anonymous blogger had been posting kiddy porn? No-one would question the Government's reaction then. So why is this any different? Because its about cartoons that you guys don't have a problem with.

But to be frank, what we think about the cartoons is completely irrelevant. If this blogger has committed a criminal act, then the Government has a responsibility and has done the right thing. Freedom of speech has nothing to do with it.

I am so sick of this cartoon issue. But unlike the previous commenters, what I am sick of are the jerks who keep pushing the cartoon 'button'. What do they want? A global jihad? This blogger is a malevolent force that needs to be stopped. I hope the Government find him and throw him in jail. It better not be you, Mum...! ;-)

Anonymous said...

@brett: I can see from your previous comments that you symphatize with a certain group of people in Indonesia.

The thing is that Indonesians (and a specific group with a specific religion) need to grow up. I don't get up and demand a global jihad or threaten to behead someone when somebody makes a statue of Jesus with an erection or draws Jesus having sex.

Why? Because I know better not to bother myself with such kind of things. There are more important things in life than getting angry for such rubbish.

However, I do agree that insulting other people's religion is a rather reckless action, not to mention childish. And what's the best act to handle a childish / immature person whose life passion is to insult other people? Why? IGNORE IT of course.

If nobody reacts, he/she'll get bored eventually. And it's really not a surprise that a freedom of speech fits in.

Indonesians, sadly, are easy to be poked around. Lack of education? Definitely. Poverty? Maybe. Poisonous doctrines? Definitely

Anonymous said...

I saw the cartoon, although I couldn't find the funny side, I don't think it's offensive at all. Like everyone else, I'm wary of the way everybody treats this issue.

Lighten up, people. There are so many other more important matters rather than just 'cartoon that insults our prophet'. But typical Indonesia, everything is superficial, everything is about face-value. Have those protesters seen the cartoon, by the way? I bet 9 out of 10 haven't.

About the anonymous blogger, I'm sorry that now s/he lives in fear. I hope wordpress wouldn't give in.

mia said...

The blogger should have had dignity and courage to justify his action. Having said that, the Government's reaction is the same, if not similar, childish response to the Fitna debacle... blocking Youtube because someone posted the Fitna video there. Saw ugly face, break the mirror.

Rob Baiton said...


I understand that many people besides you are perhaps bored with the time and space that the issue takes up but for me it is an interesting issue.

It is interesting because it gets a response and because of the nature of the response it gets.

I guess the answer to your question is that some people do not agree that a cartoon is just a cartoon.


I am more focusing on the legal issues implications than the quality or lack thereof of the cartoon. Humor in many ways is personal. I might find something hilarious and you might not see the humor in it at all (and vice versa).


I am not suggesting that kiddy porn is a free speech issue. To be fair, I do not have a problem per se with cartoons that depict any religious figures past or present.

That does not mean that I see the humor or find them funny. Some are clearly in bad taste and some might even be offensive. Art and humor are subjective.

Yes, the blogger has committed a criminal act. I am questioning whether the act should have been criminalized in the first place.

I am also asking whether this is an issue of free speech and if so, how so? I think it is a freedom of speech and expression issue.

I have consistently argued that neither speech nor expression is absolutely free. Personally, I would argue that perhaps political commentary and religious commentary, for example, need to be protected as free speech in any form including cartoons or satire.

I would argue that kiddy porn is not protected by any freedom of speech or freedom of expression provisions.

Cartoonists keep pushing the button because they get a reaction. What do they want? They want the reaction. And, let's face it, we keep giving it to them by devoting more time and space to what they publish.


I think there are more important things going on in the world than cartoons.

That said, the idea that there might be protests and violence because of a cartoon that many would not have seen is worth writing about.

As I have said before, humor is subjective. I do not necessarily see the humor in some of the cartoons but I am not about to advocate that if something is not funny then it should be banned.


This is the thing with anonymous blogging (and writing in general). I accept that there are times where there is a need for anonymity.

However, I am also a strong believer in that there is a courage in one's convictions if you are prepared to write under your own name and defend the positions that you hold.

This courage sometimes comes at huge personal cost.

That said, if you are a cartoonist drawing a cartoon that depicts Muhammad or something on Islam, irrespective of your reasons, then you are probably expecting a response. Some might argue that you are provoking a response.

So, for that reason alone it is probably worthwhile in not making yourself so readily and easily identifiable.

I do wonder though whether the government response would have been the same if the cartoon had of been depicting a figure from another religion?

ultratupai said...

I did not want to leave a comment regarding the cartoon controversy (again!). I actually wanted to contact you regarding my own post about Jakarta. I am taking a sort of a survey. The question is:

Is Jakarta a city?

Rob Baiton said...


I can understand your aversion to leaving another comment on yet another cartoon controversy.

I will post my reply on your question at your blog.

brett said...

My point is that if a law has been broken by posting these photos then the Govt has done the right thing. I drew the analogy to kiddy porn because I think everyone is confusing the subject matter (the cartoons) with the real issue, which is whether Wordpress should be compelled to hand over this jerk.

The only people I empathize with are the Govt. They are screwed whatever they do.

As for freedom of speech, did anyone see the blog? Why did this jerk post the cartoons?

Rob Baiton said...


Not sure if your comments are directed at me or at the other posters of comments.

I think the law has been broken with the posting of the "cartoons". I think that a prosecution could be pursued under the Criminal Code and under the ITE Law.

Once again, I have never argued that freedom of speech is absolute and that there is a line, albeit not as black and white as it perhaps needs to be.

Why did this person post the cartoons, I cannot rightly say as I do not know. Maybe it was a crass attempt to drive traffic to the blog.

I was not offended by the cartoons but I am not Muslim, perhaps that is my problem, and I was not offended. I was also not humored because I saw no value in the cartoons other than to drive controversy.

I still believe there is a freedom of speech and expression issue related to this issue. That is, whether this sort of thing is or should be or should not be protected speech or expression.

Whether or not Wordpress is compelled to hand over (or serve up) the blogger is only one of the issues as I see it.

Brett said...

@the writer: I was going to let this go, but it has been bugging me all day:

"@brett: I can see from your previous comments that you symphatize with a certain group of people in Indonesia."

What on earth do you mean? I sympathize with a lot of people. If you mean "Muslims" then just come out and say it. Is sympathizing with Muslims a bad thing? Judging from your next comment, my guess is you think so:

"The thing is that Indonesians (and a specific group with a specific religion) need to grow up. I don't get up and demand a global jihad or threaten to behead someone when somebody makes a statue of Jesus with an erection or draws Jesus having sex."

The thing is, "the Writer", your suggestion is about as helpful as the blogger who posted the pics.

@rob: I totally understand if you decide to edit out this comment. In future I think I will limit my reading to the original post. It's not worth the upset.

Rob Baiton said...


You know me, at least through my blog, and you will know that I am inclined to let things stand as they are. There are obviously exceptions to every rule hence the lack of absoluteness with issues like free speech. If I deleted your comments or part of it then I would have to delete the original comment that triggered this one. Unless, some one is offering up good reasons for that, then I am not going to delete either.

It is about having the courage of your convictions. It is about if you want to speak then speak and then back it up if and when you are challenged.

To be honest I figured that it (what was written) would bug you and I am surprised that you held out for as long as you did (then I just figured you were doing other things and you would get back to this in due time).

There is little doubt in my mind that the suggestion was a sympathy towards our brothers and sisters of the Muslim faith.

I am certain that your sympathies do not lie with those that would respond with violence to the publishing of cartoons. And, I do not believe that your comments to date, here and elsewhere, suggest that you would not be as adamant in seeing the publisher of offensive Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, or other cartoons prosecuted under the prevailing laws.

I appreciate that you drop by and read the crap I write and leave comments. It is nice to get the feedback as well because not everyone makes their point and then is prepared to defend it.

So, hopefully this will not change. Your points always get me thinking about the art of the argument and defending a position.

As I said, the comments will stay unless someone offers up a convincing reason for me to delete them.

If you and the writer want to sort this out offline then that is up to you.

Elyani said...

Interesting, this prophet cartoon issue was being mentioned at the Pesta Blogger by the representative from the Ministry of Information. He thanked Enda Nasution for acting so promptly to contact Wordpress and asked the site to be shut down.
Well, I have seen the site just a day before it was shut down and found it tasteless and not funny at all. I just don't get it why would someone spend time drawing images that he/she knows will draw a controversy in Indonesia? if it gets out of hand, it is not impossible there will be church burning etc..which will cause another problem. We have enough problem going on in this country, we don't need another moron to make it even worse.

Rob Baiton said...


I think that is the point that Brett is making too when he calls the person a jerk.

It seems that whoever it is that drew and posted the cartoons was doing so to get a response.

It could lead to violence, but then the question is why? Hence, my second post on when is it that a cartoon stops being a cartoon and becomes a trigger for violence.

I really do not see a reason that this violence should manifest in church burnings and the like.

My point has always been that humor is subjective and so is taste. These cartoons were not funny for me but I am not convinced that the person should go to jail for them either.

That said, I think there are sustainable arguments that the cartoons would fall within the parameters of the vilification type clauses within Article 27 of the ITE Law and the provisions (forget the article number) in the Criminal Code.

Brett said...

@rob: you should be in politics. we need people like you. :)

schmerly said...


I’m just about sick of hearing what you can say and what you cant, look at this stupid porn law in Indonesia, apparently you’ll get done if you get caught telling a dirty joke!

It’s like all this political correctness! it gets right up my nose, you cant joke about anything nowadays in case you offend someone! and when it comes to religion all hell breaks loose with a call to armed conflict, the world I live in is quite tough, and there is a lot of bad mouthing that goes on, you just learn to live with it.

Rob Baiton said...


Thanks :D


Political correctness? Maybe! I have written on PC elsewhere in this blog and around the traps.

I guess the State is saying no matter how tough it is or becomes, you do not have to live with it you do not have to grow a thicker hide, and you do not have to take it on the chin.

The porn law here is only stupid in parts and the not being able to tell dirty jokes is hardly the most stupid part.

I quite enjoy the challenges that the law poses and political correctness demands. Then again, I am just a crazy bastard when it comes to things that amuse me :D

For example, I once made submissions about the offensivesness of the word "fuck" which relied on whether it was used as a noun or an adjective. As I said, I am crazy bastard when it comes to what gets the juices flowing!

schmerly said...


Don’t get to carried away, your going to need all your juices in four days time!
Isn’t Fridays child full of woe? Now if your little lad can hang on till Saturday,
Saturdays child works hard for a living, so he can look after you when you become a cabbage!

Rob Baiton said...


There will be no holding out till Saturday. It is going to be C-section on Friday morning at 7ish!

I guess this means the government will be looking after me when I become a cabbage.

schmerly said...


Good luck today mate, hope everything turns out OK with the wife and little lad.

Rob Baiton said...


It all went well. See the latest post for the minimum details and some happy snappies.

Thanks for remembering that today was the big day!

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