Restricting new media for the monarchy

5 10 2012

A report at The Independent prompts PPT to look at Google and Twitter for their transparency reports and information on government requests for information or blocking.

We also looked at Facebook, and while its data use policy is long, it does say:

We may access, preserve and share your information in response to a legal request (like a search warrant, court order or subpoena) if we have a good faith belief that the law requires us to do so. This may include responding to legal requests from jurisdictions outside of the United States where we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law in that jurisdiction, affects users in that jurisdiction, and is consistent with internationally recognized standards.

The problems seems to be that it provides no data like Google and YouTube.

The report at the newspaper argues that the “struggle over free speech is playing out most vividly today in countries that are America’s friends rather than its enemies, in nations where the right of expression is embraced in concept but often rankles in practice…”. We’re not quite sure why “America’s friends” is the criteria, but the point that in so-called democracies, including the U.S., governments are struggling to come to terms with an explosion of information.

Noting that “[a]uthoritarian regimes have more straightforward ways to block speech” by building firewalls and so on, the report adds that “[d]emocracies, however, wrestle continuously over where to draw lines when faced with expression they find unacceptable.” Government moves to block are growing:

Such moves underscore a central conundrum of technology and free expression: It’s much easier to spread images and ideas than ever before; it also can be easier for governments to block them, especially when they are centralized on the servers of a handful of private companies.

On Thailand, the report states: “Thailand, meanwhile, had just six requests [to Google], but they concerned 374 YouTube videos; Google removed them all.”

This prompted PPT to look at the Thailand data at the Google transparency report. Organized in 6-monthly blocks, its current data ends in December 2011, and is in two reports. The first, for January to June 2011 states:

We receive requests from the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in Thailand to remove content for allegedly insulting the monarchy in violation of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law. We received two requests from the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in Thailand to remove 225 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy in violation of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law. We restricted Thai users from accessing more than 90% of the videos.

This seems inaccurate, for the data in the table states that while there were no court orders, compliance (the percentage of removal requests fully or partially complied with) on two government requests was 100% on 225 items. In July-December 2010, there was one request and 100% of 43 items were blocked.

For July to December 2011, under the Yingluck Shinawatra government, it is stated:

We received four requests from the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in Thailand to remove 149 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy in violation of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law. We restricted 70% of these videos from view in Thailand in accordance with local law.

Again, we are not sure how that squares with the data that shows 100% compliance with government requests to block 149 items. Only 5 other countries had more items targeted than Thailand, the same ranking as for the earlier 6 month period.

Twitter has recently produced its first transparency report, being for January to June 2012, and this indicates no requests from the Thai government for any blocking.

These reports appear to indicate a continuing effort to “protect” the monarchy by the Yingluck government from YouTube videos considered to somehow “threaten” it. While the number of items has reduced, it is unclear whether this indicates less government attention to blocking for the monarchy or less material being posted.


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