Politics, World, Asia - Pacific

Thai junta wants online content removed without order

Junta-appointed committee wants content deemed threatening to national security or monarchy removed by Facebook and others without need for court order

Thai junta wants online content removed without order


By Max Constant


A report claims that a Thai junta-appointed committee is to ask Facebook and online communication device Line to immediately remove content deemed threatening to national security or the monarchy, if it wants to continue operating in the Kingdom.

The removal would be carried out without the need for a Computer Crime Act court order -- previously needed before any action was taken against anyone posting "threatening" content online.

The Bangkok Post reported Sunday that a document claimed to have been leaked and obtained by Thai cyber activists reveals details of the February plans.

“The Media Reform Committee’s demand not only violates international standards, but Thai laws too,” Arthit Suriyawongkul, coordinator of the Thai Netizens network, claimed.

“It violates Thai citizens' right to access the judicial process and violates freedom of expression and the right to access information."

The planned meeting comes in the wake of a similar Jan. 22 meeting with Google, which provoked concern at the local group.

Line is an instant communication application, similar to WhatsApp, widely used in Japan and Thailand.

According to the document -- posted on Facebook page "Citizen resisting the Thailand Internet Firewall," and containing the signatures of Thai officials -- Google was asked to expedite the removal of “illegal” or “unconstructive” content, as well as information “seeking to destroy the monarchy”.

A spokesman for the Media Reform Committee, however, has claimed that it did not want content removed without the order, but for Google to speed up content removal following the issue of a court order.

The government efforts are reminiscent of the “Single Internet Project”, which provoked outcry after it was made public at the end of September.

The junta quickly assured that the project, aiming to control online content coming from overseas, had been cancelled, but in October, junta leader-cum-Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha stated it was ongoing.

“You say we should not have the single gateway, but can you prevent your group from writing things that defame the nation and government?” asked Chan-ocha.

“If you cannot, then don’t tell me what method should be used."

More than 100,000 websites have been blocked in Thailand.

Of those blocked since 2006, the majority had published content concerning the highly revered monarchy, such as all web pages with content about Paul Handley’s book the ‘The King Never Smiles’, an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Blocked news websites include the UK-based Daily Mail newspaper, which ran a story considered insulting to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn two years ago, and the Asia Sentinel, which often addresses subjects deemed sensitive in Thailand.

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