Facebook misses Thai deadline to remove critical content

16 May


Thailand's King Vajiralongkorn is seen paying respects at the statue of King Rama I after signing the military-backed constitution in Bangkok on April 6, 2017.Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

The authorities are particularly sensitive of content about the new King Vajiralongkorn

Facebook is still accessible in Thailand despite a deadline passing for it to remove material the authorities had deemed critical of the monarchy.

The social media giant had been given until 10:00 local time (04:00 GMT) to remove 131 pages that Thailand said violated its strict lese-majeste laws.

More than 100 people have been charged under the law since the military coup three years ago.

Authorities had threatened legal action and a complete shutdown of Facebook.

After the deadline, the secretary-general of the Thai telecom regulator Takorn Tantasith told reporters that criminal court orders had already been issued for 34 pages and authorities were seeking court orders for the other 97 web pages.

However, the documents have not been sent to Facebook yet, added Mr Takorn from the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC), which means the pages are still accessible in Thailand.


Analysis: Jonathan Head, BBC News, Bangkok, Thailand

Image copyright
AFP

Thais are among the biggest users of Facebook in Asia, with thousands of small businesses here relying on it as their main marketing tool.

If the government carries out its threat to prosecute Facebook, and even to force local internet service providers to block it, there will be a public outcry.

However, the government seems determined to ensure that no material it deems damaging to the monarchy is visible in Thailand, despite the challenge of doing this in an open economy, and in the digital information age.

It is especially sensitive about photographs of the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn which have been circulated by some critics of the monarchy.

The king, who succeeded his father last December, has had a colourful personal life, although the severe lese-majeste law makes any discussion of the monarchy impossible inside Thailand.

Thailand’s lese-majeste laws explained


In 2015, when Facebook set up an office in Thailand, it said 34 million Thais were using Facebook every month, and that they posted three times more than the global average.

Most social media monitoring companies predict the number of users in Thailand has grown significantly since then.

The firm has previously said it carefully scrutinises requests made by governments wanting to restrict content.

If it determines the content does violate local laws it makes it unavailable in the country and notifies people who try to access it.

In May 2014, days after the military coup, Thailand blocked access to Facebook, with the Information Communications Technology Ministry saying the order came from the military. The military denied this.

The military government has increased censorship of online content since coming to power – especially criticism of the royal family.

Last month it banned Thais making any contact or sharing content from three outspoken critics of the monarchy.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply