In Indonesia, Twitter takes on social watchdog role

Tue May 11, 2010 4:33am EDT
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By Esther Samboh

JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - When Indonesian Social Services Minister Salim Segaf Al-Jufrie was spotted driving his car in a dedicated bus lane in the capital Jakarta, he could scarcely have imagined the furor that would follow.

An eagle-eyed resident snapped a picture of his transgression and posted it on the social networking site Twitter, where it was viewed by more than 10,000 people -- many of whom vented angrily at the blatant flouting of the law.

The chastened minister, however, proved as media-savvy as his detractors, using Twitter to respond and apologize.

"Thanks for all the responses and input on today's incident," he "tweeted".

"It's a valuable lesson for me and my staff. I would like to sincerely apologize ... as a leader, I take full responsibility."

And so he did. The following day, al-Jufrie filed a report of his own wrongdoing at a local police station and was fined 500,000 rupiah ($55).

The incident shows just how powerful social media such as Facebook, Twitter and others have become in Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous country with 235 million people spread across an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands.

Earlier this year, a report by the social media monitoring firm Sysomos ranked Indonesia sixth, accounting for 2.4 percent of Twitter users worldwide, after the United States, Brazil, Britain, Canada and Germany.   Continued...