Social Media Sins

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Indonesia has about 70 million active social media users, spending an average of over five hours online daily through computers and mobile devices. This has led to a proliferation of online flirting and dating, much of which is harmless. Indeed, it’s increasingly common for people to make initial contact with their future spouse via the Internet. But social media is also ripe ground for sexual predators and thieves.

One of the most insidious forms of online exploitation involves grooming children for sexual abuse. In one well-documented case, a 14-year-old girl in Depok, south of Jakarta, accepted a Facebook friend request from a 24-year-old man. Charmed by his compliments and offers of new clothes, she met him in person at a mall. At their second meeting, he took her to a house where several other young teenage girls were imprisoned. She was drugged, raped repeatedly and informed she would be sold to a brothel on Batam, the island playground for sex tourists from Singapore. The man ended up ditching her at a bus station after massive media coverage of her abduction.

The National Commission for Child Protection says many young victims of abduction are targeted via Facebook. Young girls can be lured by promises of gifts such as smartphones, jewellery and designer handbags. Children are less likely to activate maximum privacy settings on social media accounts; thus, predators can view their photos and personal details.

In March, a 19-year-old man in Jakarta befriended a 16-year-old girl on Facebook, kidnapped her and informed her family she would be murdered unless they paid a ransom of Rp.200 million.

Survivors of such ordeals are not always treated with compassion by society. In the case of the Depok girl, her school expelled her when she tried to return. An education official later claimed the expulsion was a misunderstanding.

In East Java, a paedophile posed on Facebook as a young female doctor and befriended elementary school girls. Under the guise of discussing reproductive health, he convinced at least four girls to take nude photos of themselves and send them to him. Reports said the photos were then posted online and given captions that claimed the girls’ virginity had been sold by their parents.

There are numerous pages on Facebook offering the “booking” of Indonesian girls for sex, although some of these may be scams, tricking paedophiles into transferring money for nothing.

Indonesia has strict anti-pornography legislation but it is infrequently enforced. In February, police arrested a man in Bandung, West Java, for operating several websites that sold porn, including child porn. Martakusuma Deden (28) is now on trial and faces a maximum penalty of 12 years in jail and a fine of Rp.6 billion — mostly for violating the 2008 Law on Information and Electronic Transactions.

In the East Java city of Malang, police last month arrested a member of the Air Force who used a dating application called BeeTalk to meet women and then robbed them. BeeTalk, which launched in Thailand in November 2013, operates on Android and Apple iOS devices. Users can browse profile photos of other members and automatically become friends if they ‘Like’ each other. A ‘Look Around’ feature enables users to locate those in their near vicinity. There’s also a ‘Goyangkan’ feature, where you can shake your phone to connect with complete strangers who are also shaking their phones.

Angger Yugo Prasetyo (27) used BeeTalk over June to August to meet at least four women, ranging in age from 20 to 40. He posted a photo of himself wearing a borrowed police uniform and gave himself the name Zhue.

He took his first victim to an amusement park. After getting acquainted, he suggested she use a musholla — an Islamic prayer room. When she was praying, Angger stole her handbag.

His second victim was also robbed while praying at a musholla, this time located at a petrol station. A third victim was taken to a tourist resort area. Angger later asked her to go out and buy a meal. When she returned, her online lover had disappeared with her valuables. The fourth victim was taken to a hotel for sex. When she was having a shower, Angger left with the contents of her handbag.

Police arrested Angger at a shopping centre on August 28. During interrogation, they discovered he is a member of the Air Force’s Special Forces unit. He was subsequently handed over to Military Police. He had reportedly sold the loot — cash, jewellery and mobile phones — to buy a new phone and a motorbike.

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Kenneth Yeung is a Jakarta-based editor.