Mark Zuckerberg faces 15 brutal years in a Thai prison

31 10 2011

That’s the first sentence of an article at the Huffington Post’s Tech page, authored by Mark Belinsky, the Co-Founder and President of Digital Democracy. The article explains:

According to the Computer Crimes Act of Thailand, a website owner is responsible for anything written on their site, not just the actual author of the content. So if anyone posts anything on Facebook that is considered illegal in Thailand, Zuckerberg could be held responsible. The problem is that even talking about this law in Thailand is an offense, so if someone clicks the “like” button on this article from inside their borders, it could mean trouble.

The article mentions the cases of Chiranuch Premchaiporn and Joe Gordon and on the latter asks: “What if Mark Zuckerberg was to intervene on his behalf…?” It is argued that it is in Zuckerberg’s interests, as the boss of Facebook, to promote digital democracy and support the victims of repressive laws.

Facebook has an estimated 800 million users. Zuckerberg is one of the richest men in the U.S., with $17.5 billion. That’s only about half of the Crown Property Bureau, but he still must  have some influence, especially as Facebook is so big in Thailand, especially amongst the elite.

The article goes on to explain that:

Over the past year, Google & YouTube received three requests from the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in Thailand to remove 268 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy in violation of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law. They complied and restricted Thai users from accessing about 90% of the videos. And according to technicians who work in the Office of Prevention and Suppression of Information Technology Crime, they have blocked around 70,000 Internet pages over the past four years, the vast majority of them, 60,000, banned for insults to the monarchy.

Mark Zuckerberg

Here’s Belinsky’s pitch:

Already, Amnesty International has named a Thai man, Wipas Raksakulthai, a prisoner of conscience following a Facebook post. With Zuckerberg in the same boat, why not draw the international media that prisoners of conscience deserve and see whether there is any way to help the Thai people uphold the standards their government signed onto with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and allow for the freedom of expression that’s mandated in their constitution?

A first point here is that the significance of AI actually doing something about lese majeste and computer crimes in Thailand is important. It is such a pity that they are so sclerotic in their attention to clear cases of political abuse of these laws. The second point is to agree that Belinsky has a great idea.

He concludes with this:

Mark, I hear the weather in Thailand is gorgeous this time of year. Perhaps you should plan a visit once the floods dissipate. I, for one, would “like” that.

Of course, Mark’s been to Thailand, but he partied and didn’t get any political message or give one, although his buddy was marrying into the Thai elite. Maybe now? Doubt it…. Still, a great idea and shouldn’t the talk about the power of social media amount to more than the power to make more money?

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