Thanks to Google, a new blasphemy app is now a thing for folks in Indonesia who don’t approve of each other’s behavior.
Journalist Laura Loomer (who herself was kicked off Twitter for ‘blasphemy’ against Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar) reports the app was approved by Google at the request of the Indonesian government.
While Indonesia has strict blasphemy codes against hostility, hate and contempt against religion, it’s also the country which sourced the Islamic renewal movement. Islamic renewal is in the vein of Muslim reform and urges tolerance and critical thinking within the context of faith and theology.
However, technological surveillance communities initiated by peers within that community is a very slippery slope, particularly when the app is used to address “deviant” behavior, which can mean anything. For Islamic scholar Rushd as-Safaa, this trend of peer-to-peer surveillance and reporting is particularly devastating:
“Deviant” can of course be anything anyone wants it to be. It could be the Ahmadiyyah, who have already been ‘restricted’ by the MUI [Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body]; it could be religious minorities by someone bigoted or really anyone just looking to settle a score. These are Islamist tactics: They cannot capture the state, but they can create agitations and count on secular complacency or coopting from state authorities and/or the public.”
When asked why this is happening in Indonesia, which was also at one point (and continues to be in some circles) a source for rich conversations on faith, Rushd as-Safaa shared:
Indonesia remains heterogenious and divided, but urban migration has broken old bonds and made people, especially Muslims, desperate for new religious solidarity. They may not truly agree with Islamist goals, but they want to fit in and belong. The problem with pluralism, too, is that the whole point of it is to have many paths and experiences. Indonesian pluralists don’t do their project 24/7 because the whole point of pluralism is to have other things. The Islamist ideology though makes their project 24/7 and quantitative in measuring accomplishment.”
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the only instance of Google intervening in surveillance capabilities at the request of a foreign government. As Clarion Project reported in depth, Google is teaming up with Chinese authorities to help persecute China’s 11 million Muslims known as the Uighurs.
Also, as Clarion Project reported, the advent of policing and censoring speech within social media platforms has normalized the idea that it is acceptable to police each other for “unfavorable” rhetoric. That concept is now moving beyond online spaces and coming to a smart phone near you.