Indonesian Indigenous Group Demands Internet Shutdown

The indigenous community in Indonesia has demanded an internet shutdown in their area to minimize the “negative impact” of the online world, officials said Friday.

The Badui, a community of 26,000 people in Banten Province on the island of Java, is divided into an outer group that partially adopts technology and a sacred inner group that eschews the trappings of modern life.

Negative influence

According to a letter seen by AFP, the internal group has asked authorities to turn off Internet reception or redirect nearby telecom towers to prevent the signal from reaching them.

“This request is part of our efforts to minimize the negative impact smartphones have on our people,” Baduy wrote.

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They argued that telecommunications towers built near their neighborhood could threaten their way of life and the morals of young people who might be tempted to use the Internet.

Officials in the Lebak area told AFP they received the letter on Monday and agreed to speak with the Indonesian Information Ministry to try to comply with the request.

“Essentially, we want to always consider what the Baduy people want and must uphold their traditions and local wisdom,” Lebak spokesman Budi Santoso told AFP Friday.

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He said that the Internet was needed by outside Baduys who started online businesses, but also that officials were concerned that visitors or tourists might access the network and display content they found inappropriate for the Baduys.

internet freedom

Internet freedom in Muslim-majority conservative Indonesia is a contentious issue. The government has banned gambling and pornography and is requiring ISPs to filter out content they deem inappropriate.

Despite censorship, illegal websites hosting such content thrive.

The reclusive inner baduy, dubbed Asian Amish by Western media, chose to live in the forest and reject technology, money, and traditional education.

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They live in three villages in a 4,000-hectare (9,900-acre) area, a few hours’ drive from the capital, Jakarta.

In 1990, the government declared the area a cultural reserve.

Indonesia is a very diverse country with over 1300 ethnic groups scattered throughout the archipelago.