The Indonesian government is exerting regulatory pressure on Facebook amid the data privacy scandal and fake news issues facing the social networking site as the country’s presidential election is drawing near. Rudiantara, Indonesia’s Minister of Communication and Information, has warned the social media titan that he would move to order for the service’s closure in the country if the personal data of Facebook users there will be exploited by individuals or groups seeking to sway the results of the polls, which are scheduled to take place in April next year.
The minister’s concerns come as Facebook is embroiled in a massive data privacy fiasco after it was found out last month that Cambridge Analytica, a British data analytics and political consulting firm, mined the information of 50 million Facebook users and used the data in a bid to influence the results of the 2016 elections in the United States. Cambridge Analytica was hired by the camp of then business mogul Donald J. Trump to help in his campaign. As the Indonesian presidential polls are only 12 months away, there is a growing concern in the country that some other organizations with a vested interest will try to influence the voters’ decision using insights from the treasure trove of data from Facebook’s huge user base. Rudiantara already communicated with Facebook, asking the company for confirmation that the data harvested by Cambridge Analytica did not include the information of any Indonesian user, though the Menlo Park, California-based company has yet to respond to the request.
If the Indonesian authorities find any evidence indicating that the personal information of Facebook users in the country is exploited to influence the election results, Rudiantara has threatened to impose harsh penalties such as administrative and criminal sanctions. These include up to 12 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to 12 billion rupiah, or approximately $873,000, for individuals found guilty of violating the country’s data privacy laws. Facebook is already facing multiple regulatory inquiries in Europe, where both the European Parliament and the U.K. government are investigating the alleged data misuse. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission recently confirmed that it has launched a probe into the controversy.