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“Byte-Sized Defenders: Legal Strategies to Protect the Youth Online”

Written by Jason Nicholas Budianto and Sheren Christabella Nathanael (ILMCC); Irene Marcella and Jordan Baros (HMFH)

 

Abstract: 

The digital era has led to a significant increase in children’s online activity, with 30 million Indonesian children. However, this newfound connectivity has brought forth a dark underbelly, as approximately 13% of these children are affected by cyberbullying, predominantly on popular social media platforms. Parents are often unaware of their children's victimization. Internationally, legal safeguards like the UNCRC stand as beacons of child protection, emphasizing the need to shield the young from all forms of harm, including digital threats. Closer to home, Indonesian legislation such as Law 35/2014 and Law 11/2008 have been enacted to combat cyberbullying and online exploitation, providing legal recourse for affected children. Successes and challenges vary regionally, emphasizing the need for comprehensive safeguards. In essence, while the digital age offers boundless opportunities for children, it also presents grave dangers. As a result, it is essential that we not only strengthen our legal defenses, but also cultivate a culture of proactive parental involvement to protect our children from the dangers of the online world.

 

In this digital era, there has been a significant increase in the use of the internet and social media around the world. Information and communication technology has provided easy access to online platforms, facilitating individuals to connect, share information, and participate in various online activities. This surge in participation now includes children who are introduced to technology from an early age. 


Advances in technology, the availability of digital devices, and the expansion of the Internet's reach are fundamental factors in the growth of online activities. As a result, children are spending significant time online for education, entertainment, and social interaction. However, the increased exposure of children to the online world also brings negative impacts, such as cyberbullying and the presence of sexual predators who capitalize on the vulnerabilities of this era.


Indonesia Child Online Protection (ID-COP) indicates that approximately 30 million Indonesian children are internet users. Unfortunately, amid this positive development, there is a concerning aspect where 13% of the total 43 million internet users experience cyberbullying. This figure indicates that a significant number of Indonesian children face negative consequences in the virtual world. According to Law No.35 of 2014 jo. Law No.23 of 2002 concerning Child Protection, children are defined as individuals who have not yet reached 18 years of age. 


Further data also reveals that 87% of cyberbullying cases occur through social media, highlighting the challenge of maintaining a safe online environment. Nevertheless, there is a striking concern, as 74% of parents are unaware that their children are victims of cyberbullying. This emphasizes the importance of increasing parental awareness of their children's online activities to protect them from the escalating risks of cyberbullying.


These days, children are not only using the internet and social media, but they are also actively participating in various online activities, such as creating content and interacting with other people. According to Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS), the majority of children who use the internet to access social media are 5 years old or older, with the percentage reaching 88.99% (Annur, 2021). Meanwhile, the minimum age limit for using social media such as X, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook is 13 years old. Using social media under the recommended age carries risks including bullying and threats from sexual predators. Therefore, parents, educators, and law enforcement must educate, monitor children's online activities, and ensure their safety in this rapidly evolving digital world. 


As children become more active users of social media, the risks of cyberbullying and threats from sexual predators in cyberspace become more apparent. To provide optimal protection, it is necessary to understand the legal framework, both nationally and internationally. 


International Legal Instruments 

In the realm of international law, the protection of children from cyberbullying and sexual predation has become a pressing concern. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) stands as a pivotal document. UNCRC stands as a landmark international treaty that encapsulates a profound commitment to safeguarding the rights and well-being of children worldwide. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1989, the UNCRC is a comprehensive framework comprising 54 articles that articulate the inherent rights of every child, from birth to the age of 18. This convention, ratified by an impressive number of 196 countries, is the most universally accepted human rights treaty globally.


The convention emphasizes the importance of considering the best interests of the child in all actions and decisions affecting them, encouraging active participation in matters concerning their lives. As countries, including Indonesia, commit to UNCRC, they undertake the responsibility to interpret and implement its principles objectively, ensuring that the evolving needs and challenges facing children in the modern world are addressed. 


While this convention may not specifically address the issues of cyberbullying and sexual predators, it offers valuable references in Articles 19 and 34. Article 19 requires governments to ensure that each child is protected from all manifestations of violence, including in the digital world. Meanwhile, Article 34 serves as a protective measure specifically aimed at shielding children from sexual violence, providing a relevant foundation for addressing concerns related to online exploitation. As a tangible manifestation of Indonesia’s commitment to the UNCRC, the country has set up Komnas HAM, a dedicated agency, to address child violence, complemented by SAPA 129, a public complaint service for reporting cases involving children and women. These actions can serve as examples of how Indonesia has implemented articles 19 and 34 of the UNCRC by establishing specialized institutions, helplines, and reporting mechanisms. 


Having talked about the success of implementing the UNCRC in Indonesia, let us now delve into the implementation of these critical provisions and examine how they are applied in two diverse contexts: Sumatera Selatan, where there has been notable success, and Kepulauan Riau, where challenges persist. In South Sumatra, the government demonstrates success in implementing the UNCRC by effectively curbing the incidence of violence against children. Notably, over four years (2017-2020), an increase in such cases was observed only in 2020. Conversely, in the Riau Islands, challenges persist, with various forms of violence affecting children. Instances include children in conflict with the law, those requiring special protection, and those whose basic rights remain unfulfilled. This highlights a divergence in the implementation of child protection measures between South Sumatra and the Riau Islands, emphasizing the need for concerted efforts to address gaps and ensure comprehensive safeguards for children.


Apart from the UNCRC, there are additional agreements that can be utilized as points of reference for addressing cyberbullying and online exploitation of children. Namely, the Convention on the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse which addresses the criminalization of the use of new technologies, especially the internet, to sexually harm or exploit children. The Convention is open to all countries around the world, but only five countries have ratified it, with the majority coming from Europe. It is the only international treaty that criminalizes sexual abuse as a crime, including the recruitment of children into prostitution, the production, supply, distribution and possession of child pornography, online access to child pornography, and soliciting children in chat rooms or online gaming sites for sexual purposes.


On the other hand, the ITU COP, established by the UN as a specialized entity, plays an important role in developing safe and empowering online spaces for children and youth. The surge in information and communication technologies (ICTs) has provided young people with opportunities to engage in communication, socialization, sharing, learning, accessing information, and expressing their opinions on issues that affect their lives and communities. At the same time, it also presents significant challenges to ensuring children's safety.


In a world where the Internet permeates almost all aspects of life, the imperative to protect young users online is increasing. In 2009, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) initiated the guidelines for Child Online Protection. The ITU Guidelines on Child Online Protection are a comprehensive set of recommendations addressed to all relevant stakeholders, guiding them on how to contribute to the establishment of a safe and empowering online environment for children and young individuals.


Standards and Guidelines for Child-Friendly Application Development 

After reviewing the International legal framework that regulates cyberbullying and sexual predation against children, it is also important to note the standard guidelines that apply both internationally and nationally that regulate child-friendly application development for child safety. In the United States, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA is the law that governs privacy and data protection for children under the age of 13. All websites, and online services that are directed to children under the age of 13 must comply with the COPPA regulations. COPPA was created with the primary goal of placing parents in control over what information is collected from their young children online.


In the international community, the UNICEF Guidelines for Industry on Child Online Protection is the legal framework that most countries should refer to. UNICEF provides the industry with guidelines on how to protect children online. The guidelines aim to make digital products safer for children by guiding the design, development, and marketing of digital products such as websites and online services. Companies are expected to put the protection of children at the heart of their work, paying particular attention to protecting the privacy of young users' data, preserving their right to freedom of expression, and having systems in place to address violations of children's rights when they occur.


The laws and guidelines that regulate online child protection do not only exist internationally and nationally but also exist locally. The example of states’ efforts to prevent child exploitation on social media can be found in their regulations and legislation, congressional hearings, and past judicial decisions. For example, California state Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1394, which is a law that penalizes web services for knowingly facilitating, aiding, or abetting the commercial sexual exploitation of children. AB 1349 is one of many online regulations that California has passed in recent years. However, some of them have been challenged as unconstitutional. Moreover, Some cases or controversies involving child privacy violations can create pressure at the legislative level. In turn, tech companies may be invited to testify before the United States Congress, where they will be held accountable and questioned about their practices. Finally, Governments or individuals can take legal actions against tech companies if there is a perceived violation of a child's privacy. This could involve lawsuits in court.


Indonesian Legal Instrument 

After examining child protection in international law, the following discussion will focus on child protection from the perspective of Indonesian law. The legal basis for child protection in Indonesia can be found in Law No. 35 of 2014, which amends Law No. 23 of 2002 on Child Protection (Law 35/2014 jo. Law 23/2002) and protects children against bullying. Article 76C of Law 35/2014, in conjunction with Law 23/2002, prohibits any individual from engaging in, allowing, ordering, or participating in violence against children. The Constitutional Court has deemed this provision necessary to safeguard children from violence and other crimes, under the basic principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which Indonesia has ratified. It is crucial to protect children from sexual crimes to ensure their proper development. The significance of this safeguard is evident in the state constitution and the creation of institutions such as the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI). The KPAI's duties include various aspects such as receiving complaints from the public, collecting data and information on child protection, and supervising the implementation of child protection, as stated in Article 76 of Law 35/2014.


Furthermore, to specifically see the regulations regarding cyberbullying, we can refer to Law 11/2008 regarding technological transaction and information, one of them is regarding supervision and sanctions on the use of electronic devices and telecommunication devices in carrying out cyberbullying actions. Articles in Law Number 11/2008 contain ways to enforce the law against cyberbullying perpetrators, this is done so that victims can be protected and perpetrators can be sanctioned and punished accordingly for using technology to engage in acts of violence or cyberbullying. Article 27A of Law Number 11/2008 states that anyone who intentionally attacks the honor or reputation of another person by accusing them of something, to make it known publicly through Electronic Information and/or Electronic Documents conducted through Electronic Systems, can be sanctioned. Violations of Article 27A may be subject to a maximum imprisonment of 2 years and/or a maximum fine of Rp400 million as stipulated in Article 45 paragraph (4). Furthermore, there is also Article 45B which states, "Anyone who intentionally and without right sends Electronic Information and/or Electronic Documents directly to the victim containing threats of violence and/or intimidation as referred to in Article 29 shall be punished with a maximum imprisonment of 4 (four) years and/or a maximum fine of Rp750,000,000.00 (seven hundred fifty million rupiah)." The term "threat of violence" refers to Electronic Information and/or Electronic Documents containing content intended to instill fear, anxiety, or worry about the occurrence of violence, as outlined in Number 9 of Article 27B Paragraph (l). These articles are part of efforts to impose sanctions on perpetrators who attack others through electronic media and provide protection to the reputation and dignity of victims in the digital world. 


Furthermore, in cases of child sexual exploitation through online media, the provisions referring to Law Number 44/2008 concerning Pornography (Law 44/2008) as its specialized law or lex specialis. This is reflected in Article 32 of Law 44/2008, which states, "Anyone who broadcasts, displays, exploits, possesses, or stores pornographic materials as referred to in Article 6 shall be punished with a maximum imprisonment of 4 (four) years and/or a maximum fine of Rp2,000,000,000.00 (two billion rupiahs)." Article 32 of Law 44/2008 is part of legal efforts to protect society from the negative impacts of pornographic content. This prohibition aims to maintain morality and protect individuals, especially children, from inappropriate and harmful exposure to pornographic materials. Thus, Article 32 of Law 44/2008 serves as an important instrument in eradicating pornographic content in Indonesia.


Technological advancements are a double-edged sword that can bring benefits and disadvantages if not used wisely. The phenomena of cyberbullying and threats from sexual predators are among the harms of unwise technology usage. Various social media platforms have set minimum age limits for their users, yet it can still be seen that children below these age limits are using some of these platforms, making them vulnerable to criminal targeting. Therefore, various legal frameworks at both the international and national levels provide legal protection for children who are vulnerable to becoming victims of crimes. Not only that, preventive measures to keep children away from criminal targeting include parental supervision. Certainly, the various regulations outlined above need to be optimized with parental oversight to minimize the negative impacts resulting from technology use.







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