Steam, Epic Games, PayPal, and More Digital Services Providers Banned in Indonesia

As technology progresses forward and, more and more people start relying on services offered by large tech companies for their day-to-day life, the overall control of the masses slowly steers away from the state and into the hands of private corporations. This is an issue faced around the world and many governments—including the European Union—have started scrutinizing Big Tech to comply with local laws and prevent anti-competitiveness.

Such is the case with Indonesia as well. The country introduced a new law called “MR5” in 2020 which formed the basis for much of what has happened in Indonesia over the past few days. MR5 essentially states that “Private Electronic System Providers” need to follow the new law by registering themselves in the country’s database. This registration allows the government to access specific user data and even appeal certain content. 

Whatever media the state deems as “illegal” or going against the local laws would be removed at the state’s request. In “urgent” situations, the time instigated to these companies would be 4 hours, whereas in normal cases it would be up to 24 hours to delete the content in question. Inability to cooperate with the state would result in strict action taken against the firm.

The final deadline to register and start following MR5 was 27th July, 2022 and any company that didn’t put their names in before that would be banned nationwide. And that’s exactly what has happened with PayPal, Steam, games like CSGO and DOTA 2, along with Yahoo, and more, as reported by the Reuters yesterday.

Indonesian Ministry of Communication and Information (Kominfo) is already in talks with these service providers to coerce them into complying with MR5 so they could start services in the region again. It should be noted that these services are not permanently banned and would be reinstated as soon as they apply for a license.

Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix, TikTok, and various other big names got their license last week and are now officially registered with the country’s database. Their operations, therefore, remain unaffected and users can access services from these providers without any issues. 

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called Indonesia’s MR5 “invasive of human rights” in 2021, and has asked the government to reconsider their stance on forcing tech companies to register with the state. The EFF points out that all affected platforms are now at the mercy of the government who can pick and chose what stays online and what doesn’t, effectively discarding democracy (public opinion) in the process.  

Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan, director of Kominfo has said that the Indonesian government might lend users access to PayPal temporarily amidst the ban, however do not expect such leniency for any other provider. There is no word on when these services will come back online again. Given the current state of the world, it wouldn’t be long before people start lobbying for a reversal. 

The PayPal app on an iPhone | Gearrice

It’s important to remember that in cases like these, most of the time, the state always prevails. If we take a look at the timeline, something similar happened in Pakistan last year with TikTok. The social media platform was banned four separate times across the country due to unethical content that violated the state’s media moderation policy.

Before that, the mega-hit game PUBG Mobile was also blocked in the region due to rising mass-hysteria of teenage addiction among the game’s players. Both TikTok and PUBG eventually succumbed to the mounting pressure from both the government and the users yearning for retrieve their lost access.

It’s highly likely that the Indonesian government, Kominfo, and the affected parties will reach a mutual agreement of sorts which will bring them back in the country. How long the public has to wait for that to happen, however, remains to be seen. 


Huzaifa Haroon

Born and raised around computers, Huzaifa is an avid gamer and a keyboard enthusiast. When he's not solving the mysteries of technology, you can find him scrutinizing writers, striving to inform the curious.
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