Indonesia welcomes BlackBerry porn pledge

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Indonesia welcomed Tuesday a promise by Canadian firm Research in Motion (RIM) to filter its BlackBerry web services for pornography, after threatening to revoke the smartphone maker's licence.

RIM said Monday it would start filtering web content provided to users in Indonesia in response to the mainly Muslim country's threat to block it from one of Asia's fastest growing telecommunications markets.

RIM is the world's fourth biggest smartphone platform, with global sales of 11.9 million units, according to research firm Gartner. It does not filter its web content in any of its other markets around the world.

"We've heard about RIM saying it will filter the Internet.... That's good news to us and we highly appreciate that," communications ministry spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto said.

RIM said in a statement that it had been in talks with its partners and the government and "continues to make it a top priority to implement satisfactory technical solutions as soon as possible".

Communications and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring gave the company two weeks to comply or risk being kicked out of the country.

"If in the next two weeks, RIM fails to comply with the order by January 21, we will revoke its permit," Sembiring told reporters on Monday.

RIM set up a service centre in Indonesia -- a country of 240 million people and with 40 million Internet users -- in 2009 at the request of the government.

"Based on experience, we're confident it will comply this time, too," Broto said.

"Furthermore, their market is big here," he added.

Analysts believe there are about two million BlackBerry users in Indonesia, out of an estimated 11.9 million units sold worldwide.

RIM representatives will meet officials on Monday to discuss how they intend to filter pornography from the highly encrypted smartphones, officials said.

"We need them to give us the word that they will comply and the actual filtering is just a matter of time," Broto told AFP.

"We can't say what our next step will be until we meet them. We have yet to see the details of the filtering, what will be filtered, how it's going to be filtered."

The row is the latest in a series of controversies RIM has faced as governments including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and India have complained about difficulties monitoring BlackBerry communications.

Indonesia's threats prompted a wave of angry protest on microblogging site Twitter as BlackBerry users voiced fears their phones would be blocked.

But officials tried to hose down such concerns on Tuesday.

"It's web browsing that will be deactivated if RIM doesn't comply. Users can still use BlackBerry messenger, Twitter, Facebook," Broto said.

Communications Minister Sembiring meanwhile unleashed a series of Tweets defending his position as a matter of Indonesian sovereignty.

"All other operators have complied with the laws and regulations of Indonesia.. should RIM be given an exception?" he asked in one posting.

"Must we always bow to foreigners? Are we being arrogant if we remind foreigners to respect the laws in Indonesia?"

The minister, who hails from a conservative Islamic party, became the butt of jokes in November when he Tweeted about his reluctance to shake US First Lady Michelle Obama's hand when she visited Jakarta.

His ministry has launched a controversial drive to filter explicit sexual content from the Internet.

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