14 Suspected Members of Islamist Cyber Network Detained by Indonesian Police

On Thursday March 1st, 14 members of a network called the Muslim Cyber Army were arrested. The Indonesian Police say they have been using hacking, online misinformation campaigns and hate speech to push Indonesia into a more conservative direction.

Director of the Indonesian national police cyber crimes unit, Mohammad Fadil Imran, said the suspects are accused of defamation, spreading false reports and racial and religious discrimination, among other crimes. They were found in various regions of Indonesia, he said, and more may be detained.

“The operation is ongoing, and new developments may emerge soon,” Imran said. “We were able to use common, basic technology to track them down.”

According to police and expert accounts, Muslim Cyber Army (MCA) is a name used by a loosely connected network of groups that mostly produce online content for open distribution on platforms such as Facebook and the WhatsApp direct messaging service.

The network allegedly spread rumors that the country’s Islamic clerics were under attack and that the Indonesian Communist Party — banned since 1966, after it was decimated by the military — was being resurrected. Both claims provoked a violent response from Indonesian conservatives.

A number of groups reportedly operate in the Muslim Cyber Army network using different names, such as the Family MCA, the United MCA, the Legend MCA, Special Force MCA, Muslim Sniper and MCA News Legend.

Despite their militant names the groups began with legal, nonviolent political aims, according to Damar Juniarto, founder of digital rights group Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network, who has been tracking MCA since last year. Only later did they turn to illicit activities, and with serious consequences, he said.

“Their activities have led to people losing their jobs, being kidnapped or even tortured,” Juniarto said. “Indonesian society was already divided, but they have provided fuel for hatred and had a significant impact on politics here.”

Source: The Washington Post

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