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New app on Google Play store allows citizens to report blasphemy to Indonesian government. Backlash floods reviews.

Google, alleged purveyor of free speech

LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images

Google recently approved a new app to be downloaded from its application marketplace that allows users to report religious blasphemy directly to the Indonesian government. To no surprise, Google's decision to stock the app is earning widespread condemnation.

What does the app do?

According to the National Secular Society, the app, known as Smart Pakem, launched last month and allows users to report "deviant" religious ideas directly to Indonesian authorities. Critics believe the app will allow authorities to crack down on those who allegedly insult Islam, the dominant religion in the Asian country.

Indonesia's anti-blasphemy law "targets those who deliberately, in public, express feelings of hostility, hatred, or contempt against religions with the purpose of preventing others from adhering to any religion, and targets those who disgrace a religion." Those found guilty of blasphemy face a maximum of five years in prison.

Indonesian law officially recognizes six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Spreading ideas related to non-approved religions, or atheism, is considered a breach of the anti-blasphemy code.

While Shariah law is not widely practiced in Indonesia — only one province, Aceh, applies the Islamic law in full, in both civil and criminal cases, among Muslims and non-Muslims alike — Shariah harshly condemns blasphemy. For non-Muslims, punishment is discretionary, but could result in death, while among Muslims, especially men, it carries a mandatory death sentence.

What is the response to the app?

Human rights and free speech advocates alike have condemned Google's decision to stock the app. Critics believe the app will allow authorities to further restrict free expression.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of Britain's National Security Society — which works to repeal blasphemy laws around the world — recently wrote to Rajan Anandan, Google's vice president in southeast Asia, asking the tech giant to re-consider stocking the app in the Google Play marketplace.

Evan wrote:

Indonesia's blasphemy law is a morally unjustifiable tool of repression which should be repealed as soon as possible. While this law exists anyone who believes in free expression should make it as difficult as possible for the Indonesian government to enforce the law.

Google has greatly benefited from the freedom to share information globally. We ask it and other multinational companies to consider whether they can in good conscience profit from the repression caused by governments' crackdowns on free speech.

Meanwhile, critics have flooded the app's reviews with more than a thousand negative and one-star reviews. Some reviews say:

  • "Full of descrimimation of human beings! Anyone have right to choose their believes and they have same right!"
  • "Useless app, full of hatred."
  • "Indonesia has many religions and beliefs. Google please help us to ban this application. Dear ministry, how many people that you want kill because of persecution and intolerance?"
  • "This application promotes discrimination and intolerance towards non religion believers. Its contents could trigger the radical groups in Indonesia to persecute the said believers. Very useless application."
  • "This application promotes persecution toward minority. The main function of this application is as a platform for a specific religious organization to label people of other religion as heretics."

TheBlaze has reached out to Google for comment, but has not received a response.

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