Thailand has given social network operator Facebook until next Tuesday to block illegal content from its site, or face charges under the Computer Crime Act.
The country, which has strict lese majeste laws, has detained several social media users since last month, after warning netizens against liking and sharing posts by three of the monarchy’s known critics who are all based overseas.
Facebook has 42 million users in Thailand and has the largest presence among social media platforms. It has already taken down 178 of 309 Web pages deemed illegal under a government blacklist. Other sites such as Google and YouTube had earlier deleted pages after the authorities sought to block them.
Facebook Thailand told German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Thursday that it will take down content if it determines that they violate local laws.
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Facebook has until Tuesday to remove the remaining 131 addresses as requested by the telecoms regulator. “If Facebook still shows content declared illegal by court orders in Thailand, action must be taken against Facebook Thailand,” Mr Takorn Tantasith, secretary- general of the National Broadcasting Commission, told Reuters.
Under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, those who defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent face up to 15 years in prison.
Since the military took power in May 2014, the number of lese majeste cases has grown from six to more than 100.
If Facebook still shows content declared illegal by court orders in Thailand, action must be taken against Facebook Thailand. ”
MR TAKORN TANTASITH, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting Commission.
Last month, five people were arrested for posting or sharing content by exiled academic Somsak Jeamteerasakul regarding a plaque commemorating the 1932 bloodless revolution that ended absolute monarchy. The plaque, which was embedded in a square in central Bangkok, was last month believed to have been replaced with a new one that highlights the monarchy’s importance.
Meanwhile, human rights lawyer Prawet Prapanukul is facing up to 150 years in jail for 10 counts of lese majeste. Prawet, whose request for bail was rejected yesterday , had previously defended other activists accused of lese majeste. Another civilian was arrested early this month for tagging Mr Prawet in a post.
The crackdown may lead to the public exercising self-censorship, said Mr Kan Yuenyong, executive director of Bangkok-based think- tank Siam Intelligence Unit.
“Mature societies need this kind of discourse,” Mr Kan told The Straits Times. “It’s quite hard to judge what is harmful content, or whether they are provocative or meant to create chaos in society or just academic.”
He added that it is impossible to suppress social media unless the Thai government is planning to follow China’s example by putting up a firewall and creating its own social media platform like Weibo.
In 2014, six days after the military coup, Facebook was blocked for about half an hour in Thailand.