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Overseas Web Kid Porn Laws Loose

August 9, 2001

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Taking a long puff on his cigarette, the street vendor questions a passer-by: ``Hey mister, do you want blue?″ using the slang for pornography as he points to racks of pirated movies stacked up under a bright orange plastic tarp.

His is just one of the hundreds of little shops jammed into Glodok, a sprawling market in Jakarta’s Chinatown district considered to be one of the largest pornographic bazaars in Southeast Asia. Although pornographic films and magazines are banned in Indonesia, where they are considered a violation of the country’s modesty and Islamic conservatism, Glodok’s sellers operate without fear of arrest.

For those who offer pornography on the Internet, it’s even easier; after all, Indonesia has no laws regarding pornography online.

The cost of such lack of regulation came into play this week, when U.S. agents in Washington announced they had arrested 100 people and cracked the largest child pornography business ever discovered in the United States _ and it was on line. The bulk of the Texas-based business’ material, agents said, came from Indonesia and Russia, where suspects known as Webmasters operated the sites.

But officials here said they have no authority to arrest two Indonesians charged in the case, since there are no statutes barring what they may have done. In fact, government officials and activists say Indonesia is one of the easiest places in the world to establish a pornography Web site.

It is left up to the service providers to decide what to allow and what to exclude from their sites, said Didi Kartiko, a provider who forbids such material.

``All users who pay for their Web sites can place whatever they want on their sites,″ he said. ``It depends on the provider whether to erase it or not. Some do and others don’t.″

Officials in Moscow said Thursday that at least 10 Russians were under investigation in connection with the Texas operation, which U.S. agents said had 250,000 subscribers around the world and grossed as much as $1.4 million a month.

Russian law does not distinguish between child pornography and pornography involving adults, and treats the production and distribution of either as a minor crime, said Dmitry Chepchugov, head of the Russian Interior Ministry’s department for high technology crimes.

An Interior Ministry official in Moscow said that at least 10 Russian operators are being investigated in the case, but that they are certain to get away with no more than two years in prison if convicted there.

Russian police often complain about the legal chaos that has turned Russia into an international center of child pornography production.

``Unfortunately, Russia has turned into a world trash bin of child pornography,″ Chepchugov told reporters in Moscow.

Ade Armando, of Indonesia’s Anti-Pornography Society, said the same of his nation.

``Indonesia is a heaven for child pornography,″ Armando said Thursday. ``Sadly, it is completely unregulated here. You can do anything.″

National police spokesman Maj. Gen. Didi Widayadi said officers would try to find Aries Dharmann and Michael Yamim _ the two site operators identified by U.S. agents in the Texas case. But he said that without legal regulations prosecution would be difficult.

Armando said Indonesia appears to be a base for child pornography distribution, rather than production, and that most of the sites show children from other countries.

Update hourly