Elon Musk’s unsettling rebranding of the Bird App to “X” has gotten the site banned in Indonesia, under the country’s strict laws regarding online pornography and gambling.
First reported by Al Jazeera, Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Informatics restricted the site because the domain “X.com” has previously been used by “negative” platforms that fall outside the government’s regulations. The ministry’s director general of information and public communications told local media that they have reached out to Twitter/X to better understand the nature of the site.
“Earlier today, we spoke with representatives from Twitter and they will send a letter to us to say that X.com will be used by Twitter,” he said.
As the site’s legality in Indonesia remains to be determined, the ban links to concerns over the country’s history of online censorship, increasingly tightening its criminal code for things like premarital sex — laws the Human Rights Watch says violate the rights of women, religious minorities, and LGBTQ people. In 2022, Indonesian authorities threatened to ban sites like Netflix, Google, Instagram, and Facebook if said platforms didn’t remove “content deemed unlawful, or that ‘disturbs public order'”. Netflix and TikTok were both briefly previously banned in the country, in 2016 and 2018 respectively for “inappropriate content.”
Meanwhile, Musk has had a long history with the letter and brand “X”. His finance startup X.com, which merged with Confinity, was rebranded by Peter Thiel as PayPal in 2001, soon after Musk was ousted as CEO. Focus groups at the time reportedly thought the name sounded more like a porn site than a financial service. Musk bought back the X.com domain in 2017 — he was the original owner back in 1999.
However, the new Twitter is likely to face legal trouble thanks to its name, considering the letter X is commonly trademarked, with nearly 900 companies currently having filed registrations on it in the U.S. alone.