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Blocked Facebook page suggests deal with Thai junta

Users claim social media giant may be entering into agreement with country's junta that would allow them to spy on users

05.05.2016
Blocked Facebook page suggests deal with Thai junta

By Max Constant

BANGKOK

Social media giant Facebook has blocked an entire page in Thailand, reportedly at the junta’s request as it was seen to satirize a monarchy protected by the world's harshest lese-majeste law.

Local media reported Thursday that the Facebook page GuKult -- which lampoons the Thai royal family -- had disappeared from view in the Kingdom since early Thursday morning.

Instead, a message saying “Content unavailable in Thailand. You’re unable to view this content because local laws restrict our ability to show it,” prevailed.

Responses from social media users immediately suggested that Facebook may be entering into an agreement with the country's junta that would allow them to spy on users.

"Be careful in your activism," overseas-based junta opponent and monarchy critic Nithiwat Wannasiri wrote on his Facebook page. "Right now, Facebook may start to cooperate with Thai government."

The incident occurred as junta critics voiced suspicion that the military regime had found a way to spy on private Facebook chat messages.

The family of two activists arrested last week -- and charged with lese-majeste on the content of private messages they are reported to have exchanged -- have told local media that Nattatika Worathaiwit and Harit Mahaton did not give their password to the military and do not understand how the authorities gained access.

Facebook has not officially acknowledged to having blocked the GuKult Facebook page or of having helped the junta access Facebook personal messages.

It did however acknowledge earlier this year that it had occasionally removed the content of some pages in 2014 at the request of the Thai authorities, particularly content deemed offending the Thai royal family.

“In 2014, we restricted access in Thailand to content reported by either the ministry of Foreign Affairs or Thai Computer Security Incident Response Team [an official agency] under a local law prohibiting criticism or defamation of the King and Royal family,” it said in a report.

It made no mention of content restrictions in 2015, but indicated that the company declined five requests for information by Thai authorities about five users during that year.

Thailand’s lese-majeste law punishes people with jail terms between 3 and 15 years for defaming, insult or threatening the monarchy.

Judges have widely interpreted the law, with one man charged earlier this year with lese-majeste for mocking a dog belonging to the king.

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