JAKARTA (Reuters) - Research In Motion said on Monday it will filter pornographic Internet content for its BlackBerry smartphone users in Indonesia, following government pressure to restrict access to porn sites or face its browsing service being shut down.
The Canadian company has been buffeted by demands for access to its encrypted data from numerous countries worried about security and social mores, including India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
It has struck a defiant tone on its business-level services, used by millions of corporate and government workers to ensure privacy of mobile communications, but reached deals on consumer services such as BlackBerry Messenger.
RIM “is fully committed to working with Indonesia’s carriers to put in place a prompt, compliant filtering solution for BlackBerry subscribers in Indonesia as soon as possible,” it said in a statement. The Waterloo, Ontario-based could not be reached for further comment.
Indonesia, home to about 2 million BlackBerry users, also asked RIM to open a local server, though RIM says the location of its servers makes no difference to the ability to decrypt the data flow on its devices.
Indonesia’s Communications and Information Minister Tiffatul Sembiring has called for tighter Internet controls and wants RIM to block access to porn sites to comply with an anti-pornography law in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
In July, Indonesia said it would ask Internet service providers to restrict access to porn sites, and Sembiring said others had already complied. When asked for a response on RIM’s statement of intent, Sembiring told Reuters: “So, do it.”
The anti-porn law, passed in 2008, was seen by many as a sign of the growing policy-making influence of religious conservatives in traditionally moderate Indonesia, and Sembiring’s calls for more Internet censorship have sparked a public outcry.
Indonesia is one of RIM’s faster growing markets, with gross domestic product growth of about 6 percent and booming consumer demand in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
RIM gets an increasing share of its revenue from outside North America and Western Europe as it comes under pressure in its most established markets from Apple’s iPhone and devices running Google’s Android operating system.
“RIM’s recurring kerfuffles with international governments, originally over security and now over other issues as well, could begin to substantially slow down new subscriber growth internationally,” Morgan Stanley analyst Ehud Gelblum wrote in a note.
RIM is wrestling with authorities in another booming mobile market, India, over access to encrypted email and other data. [ID:nSGE70601P] Last year, the company narrowly escaped a ban in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Neither side disclosed what RIM did to get itself onside with UAE telecom regulations.
A source close to the Saudi talks said in August that RIM agreed to share the unique pin number and code for each BlackBerry registered there, allowing authorities to read encrypted text sent via BlackBerry Messenger.
BlackBerry’s reputation is built on its system security and a compromise under pressure from governments could damage the device’s popularity with business professionals and politicians.
Unlike rivals such as Nokia and Apple, BlackBerry traffic runs through RIM’s own servers located in Canada and other countries such as Britain.
RIM says its system is designed so that only the sponsoring business or organization has the technical capability to grant access to encrypted enterprise email.
Additional reporting by Alastair Sharp in Toronto; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Rob Wilson