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Pornographic GIFs Almost Got WhatsApp Banned in Indonesia Recently

Indonesia, with the world’s largest Muslim population, recently threatened to block popular messaging service WhatsApp after requesting it to remove pornographic content.

According to Reuters, this week’s ban was sparked “because of obscene Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) images provided by third parties on the service.” WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, allows users to browse through a variety of GIFs, which are provided by third party companies like Tenor.

CNBC said that Indonesia’s government has given WhatsApp three different notices asking it to remove the pornographic content, threatening to block the app entirely if there was no response by Wednesday.

This is not the first ban of its kind. According to the article, “Indonesia blocked web versions of the messaging app Telegram in July because it included chat groups for Islamic State group supporters. It lifted the partial ban after Telegram co-founder Pavel Durov visited Indonesia in August and agreed on efforts to remove radical content.”

To ensure that WhatsApp would not follow the same path, Charlene Chian, Facebook’s Asia spokesperson, said: “We've directed the Indonesia government to work with these third-party providers to review their content.”

For a few days, iPhone and WhatsApp users were unable to access Tenor GIFs. The Independent reported a representative from Tenor as saying on Tuesday that "it had already implemented a fix for the content issues.”

“We see now that they have done what we asked,” said Semuel Pangerapan, a director general at Indonesia’s communication and informatics ministry. “Therefore, we won’t block them because they have responded to us.” The app is hugely popular in Indonesia, as the country’s fourth most popular messaging app, with civil servants and ministers reportedly being some of the most active users.

With its controversial anti-pornography bill originally passed in 2008 and upheld in 2010, Indonesia’s government has a history of vigilantly prohibiting pornography. However, Asian Correspondent suggested that it is not only explicit pornographic images being targeted. “Based off of research by Tor Project, a non-profit company that creates Web browsing tools, Indonesia’s Internet is partly censored including websites that criticise Islam, offer dating services and sex education.”

[Photo via QZ]

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