The Internet and Social Change in Indonesia

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Do you think social media can change a country? Liz Waid and Ryan Geertsma look at the way Indonesians are influencing their government.

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Ryan Geertsma. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 1

It is a warm day in Jakarta, Indonesia. A young woman sits in her car. The traffic is busy.  None of the cars are able to move. The woman looks at the empty driving lane next to her. This space is a special part of the road. It is only for buses and emergency vehicles. As she watches, a car drives past. This car is driving in the special lane. She recognizes the car.  It is the car of a government official named Salim Segaf Aljufri! She holds up her telephone.  She takes a picture. She puts the picture on the Internet using Twitter. Many people see the picture on this social media website. The very next day, the police appear at Aljufri’s office. And they give him a fine for breaking traffic laws!

Voice 2 

The Internet is a powerful tool for communication, learning, and sharing. But it is also a tool for political change. Today’s Spotlight is on how Indonesians are using the Internet to change their government and society.

Voice 1 

Indonesia is a large country in Southeast Asia. Over 240 million people live there. For the last 20 years, Indonesia has worked to become a fully democratic state.  Much of that work has been successful. However, many Indonesians still identify problems with their country. Some citizens complain about poor government. Others worry about the country’s lack of security. And still others describe the country’s poor economic situation.

Children play with tires and sticks in Indonesia
Image by Joseph Samson from Pixabay
Voice 2 

Many Indonesians work hard to change these negative issues. Some citizens protest to show their opposition. Others join political movements or work with social organizations to encourage social change. But most recently, Indonesians have been working for change in a new way – by using social media.

Voice 1 

Indonesians are major users of social media. They enjoy using these Internet websites to connect with other people. Nearly 17% of Indonesians uses social media websites every day. The most popular social media websites are Twitter and Facebook. And Indonesia has the second highest number of Facebook users in all of Asia.

Voice 2 

This high use of social media has begun to influence how Indonesians encourage change.  More and more people are using social media to share their opinions about social and political issues. Social media helps many Indonesians become involved. It helps them feel like they have power to influence their government. And news spreads more quickly. If a politician says or does something wrong, people can discuss it on social media. And this can change public opinion.

Voice 1 

In October of 2012, social media influenced the actions of the Indonesian President. In the Indonesian government, there is a group called the Corruption Eradication Commission or KPK. The KPK works to find corrupt or dishonest officials. Corrupt officials often accept money or bribes to do illegal things for people. The KPK works to find corruption and punish the people responsible.

Voice 2

In 2012, the KPK was investigating one of the country’s top police officials. The police were not happy with the KPK’s investigation. The police were using their power to block the KPK’s work. This action made many Indonesians angry. They believed the KPK should be able to work freely. So they talked about it on social media.

Voice 1 

On Facebook, people started a “Save KPK” movement. And on Twitter, “Save KPK” became a very popular conversation subject. People criticized the President for being quiet on the issue. The “Save KPK” movement became so popular that news organizations were talking about it!  Soon, the President ordered the police to stop interfering with the KPK investigation. And he said that Indonesians on social media made it clear that he needed to act!

Voice 2 

Social media has also been important for Indonesians who are fighting for their rights. In 2008, Prita Mulyasari had a terrible experience at the hospital. Her doctors treated her poorly. They told her wrong information about her condition. And they ordered tests that were not needed. She was very angry about her experience. When she got home, she wrote an email about it to friends and family.

blue hospital walls in indonesia
Image by Yermia Riezky from Pixabay
Voice 1 

Some of Mulyasari’s friends sent the email to other people. Soon, it spread all over the Internet. A news organization even reported on it! And Mulyasari’s doctors saw the report. They were angry, too. They did not think Mulyasari should have written negative things about them. So they took her to court. They wanted her to pay money and to go to prison.

Voice 2 

Many people in Indonesia believed the doctors were wrong. But, they also thought the doctors would probably win.  They believed this because the doctors had money to pay for a good legal expert. And Mulyasari did not. So, a group of people started a movement on Facebook. The movement raised money to help Mulyasari pay for her court case. Without the power of the Internet, Mulyasari probably would have lost her case.  But in 2012, court officials ruled that Mulyasari was innocent. It was because of social media that Mulyasari did not go to prison for expressing her opinion.

Voice 1 

Social media is a way for people to easily and quickly share their ideas and experiences. Sometimes, this can create action and influence real change. However, it does not always lead to permanent change. In Mulyasari’s case, politicians became involved. Her simple email became a national discussion about health care and the courts. But, court officials did not change any laws. Arjuna Dibley is a writer for the magazine Inside Indonesia. She wrote about the Mulyasari case. She talked about why there was no change in the law. She said:

Voice 3

“Today, social media action in Indonesia is concentrated on short messages and quick reaction to new cases. Social media lacks the long term, deep power required to create legal changes. Mulyasari’s case shows that once the early popularity of a particular case is gone, the discussion ‘moves on’ to new issues.  But the difficult, complex and longer term goal of creating legal change remains unanswered.”

social media icons in a network
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Voice 2 

What do you think about social media? Do you think it has the power to change governments and even laws? How do people use social media in your country?  You can leave your comments on the script page of this program. Or you can email us at

Voice 1 

The writer and producer of this program was Dianna Anderson. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again and read it on the Internet at This program is called, “The Internet and Social Change in Indonesia.”

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program! Goodbye!


What do you think about social media? Do you think it has the power to change governments and even laws? How do people use social media in your country?

Join the discussion

  • In my country, social media like Facebook is very popular. I think it is useful in many cases. But it also has some negatives. We should use it more carefully to get the better results that we all want and hope.

  • I think social media bring a lot of benefits and negative effect also, depend on how we use it. I think it has the power to change governments and even laws. In my country, people use social media a lot, especially Facebook.

  • In my country all social media are very used. Especially Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. The people use to comment acts politicians about many subjects. Also use to spread fake News. I hope that they can use to help other people.

  • The social media is a good tool to spread news. It may help to change the society as positively as negatively. There are cell phones all over the places. Many times, we have an only vision about the issue reported, another times it also can be a fake new. In my country, we have had many troubles with fake news during the pandemic, it has been affecting the public health involving politician contests. I think that the people are so offensive because they don’t think about effects to long term, after all the social media doesn’t require it and it is for this reason that it also works for democracy.

  • In my country the social media is very used to spread a fake and real news.especially it is used by young a people ( 12 to 40 years).
    The social media provides a good benefits as inform and learn the people a many thing but it has a big disadvantage for a family dissociation

  • It was a nice powerful story of the internet and the boldness of a Indonesian..

    And Thanks Sportlight for this program, I learn lots of English, pls continue this program

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