Twitter Creeps Are Making Jakarta Even More Dangerous For Women

An anonymous Twitter account was recently banned for uploading secretly recorded videos of women in public spaces.
June 1, 2017, 2:00pm
Illustration by Ilham Kurniawan

This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.

It's already pretty hard being a woman in Jakarta, Indonesia. The city's public minivans (called " angkot") aren't safe. Sexual harassment and groping are shockingly common on commuter trains and buses. And the streets… Don't even get me started about the streets.

So the last thing we Indonesian women need is another new form of sexual harassment. Unfortunately, that's exactly what we have here: An anonymous Twitter account was just banned for uploading secretly recorded videos and images of women on the commuter train, or shopping, walking, changing in the fitting room—you get the idea. The account, which violated women's privacy in order to satiate a bunch of creeps online, had been active for over a year and had amassed more than 70,000 followers by the time it was finally shut down.

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The account, NyolongFoto (or "steal photos" in Indonesian), was shut down after a woman found a video of herself on the Twitter account. She had fallen asleep on the commuter line to Depok, West Java, when some asshole decided to record her for two whole minutes, zooming in on different parts of her body as she slept. The woman's complaints quickly went viral, and calls to Twitter's admins to ban the account began to mount.

NyolongFoto is gone, so the war is won, right? Wrong. It was sadly just one of countless others out there. In just five minutes, MOTHERBOARD staff found plenty of other similar accounts, some of which were even worse and focussed instead on underage junior high school girls, close up photos of women walking around the market, or stolen smartphone nudes.

NyolongFoto advertised itself as "no nudes," but the account's focus on violating women's privacy in public spaces—of sexualizing women and posting the images online without their consent—makes it feel even more insidious. It makes the entire city, from the ritziest mall to the humblest traditional market, feel unsafe.

"My biggest concern is that people will think what [these] accounts do is normal, that sexual harassment is normal and, since it's being done discretely, that it's not a crime," said Maesy Angeline, co-owner of Post Bookshop and an active voice for women's empowerment in Indonesia. "I'm afraid that people will think consent is not important, or that women are 'asking for it.' That the culprits can just get away without suffering any consequences."

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The police should investigate these accounts to send a message to creeps everywhere that this kind of stuff isn't OK, Angeline continued. Indonesia already has laws regulating those who "discreetly take pictures of someone." Under the law, photographers need to get permission from their subjects before they snap a photo. Those caught snapping unlawful candids can face up to two years in prison if convicted.

But most don't see privacy as that big a concern, explained Enda Nasution, a prominent blogger and social media expert. People are only starting to take these kinds of accounts seriously after they see words like "pornography," "threats," and "intimidation" in headlines.

"Protection of one's privacy is a new thing in Indonesia," Nasution said. "Many don't even realize that privacy is something to be protected. A lot of the time, the victims didn't realize what happened [until] they suddenly find their pictures posted online."

And others just don't feel any sympathy for the victims of these accounts. Tammy Tjenreng, an editor at an Indonesian fashion magazine, says people need to hold these accounts and their followers accountable.

"We should [continue] to mold our society into a better place," she said. "It's as simple as reporting an inappropriate account, or even starting in your own peer groups: If you have male friends following these accounts, scold them. My biggest fear is [that] the next generation will simply consume and laugh at these accounts. They objectify the content without an ounce of care or criticism."