Crispin on internet censorship

14 02 2013

Shawn Crispin writing for the Committee to Protect Journalists has an article on the increasing tendency for governments to want to control the internet in the Southeast Asian region. Of course, that includes comments on Thailand. His verdict is pretty much the same as the one PPT noted yesterday: almost all of Thailand’s censorship of the internet in Thailand is about the monarchy:

The authorities had already applied the law’s vague and arbitrary national security-related provisions to censor tens of thousands of anonymously posted Web pages, mostly for material deemed offensive to the monarchy.

Crispin also makes a point that scholar David Streckfuss made at the FCCT: the 2006 military-palace coup made lese majeste and the computer crimes law. In the latter, it was the junta’s administration under on-again, off-again privy councilor Surayud Chulanont that passed the flawed computer crimes law, and it is essentially that regime and the one led by Abhisit Vejjajiva, also hoisted to power by the military-palace complex, that made the law a political weapon of choice.

Part of his account is of the “legal calisthenics” that lese majeste and computer crime laws involve. For example, in the case of Chiranuch Premchaiporn’s conviction was a:

… landmark verdict [that] effectively shifted the onus of Internet censorship in Thailand from government authorities to Internet intermediaries. Judges ruled that by failing to remove the comment quickly enough–it remained on Chiranuch’s Prachatai website for more than 20 days–she had “mutually consented” to the critical posting….

On the Abhisit regime, Crispin observes:

In 2009, in the name of shielding the monarchy from criticism, the previous Abhisit Vejjajiva-led government began a controversial Internet monitoring scheme that trained civilian volunteers, including university students, to serve as “cyberscouts” assigned to comb the Internet for anti-royal material. The number of lèse majesté complaints filed under Abhisit’s tenure nearly tripled year on year from 2009 to 2010, rising from 164 to 478 cases, according to Thai court records.

Crispin then moves to the Yingluck Shinawatra government, where the comments become less fact-based, claiming that the government’s Internet surveillance capabilities were expanded “in 2011 through a US$13 million investment in an undisclosed ‘interception’ system, according to local news reports.” It would be good to know if there has been more surveillance rather than simply reports. It is correct that in 2011″cabinet approved a directive that allowed the national police Department of Special Investigations to collect evidence, including through the intercept of Internet-based communications, without a court order in Computer Crime Act-related investigations.” It remains unclear how this power is being used.

On lese majeste, Crispin reports that:

Yingluck also established a 22-member committee dedicated specifically to suppressing lèse majesté content online. By mid-2012, MICT authorities claimed to have blocked 90,000 Facebook pages because of anti-monarchy content. That censorship followed on a late-2011 warning by MICT Minister Anudith Nakornthap that Internet users could be charged under the Computer Crime Act for “liking” online comments critical of the royal family.

While the latter is true, the claim to blocking a large number of Facebook pages has not been confirmed. One thing is clear: the number of allegations and charges of lese majeste has declined precipitously.

If any readers have better data on blocking by the current government, we’d be pleased to post it. Blocking of PPT is far less rigorous than it was under the Abhisit regime, but we continue to see some blocking by ISPs.


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6 11 2013
Yingluck, lese majeste and the need for “loyalty” | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] monarchy-related URLs, but earlier reports from this government made claims of higher numbers, with one report stating: “By mid-2012, MICT authorities claimed to have blocked 90,000 Facebook pages because of […]

6 11 2013
Yingluck, lese majeste and the need for “loyalty” | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] monarchy-related URLs, but earlier reports from this government made claims of higher numbers, with one report stating: “By mid-2012, MICT authorities claimed to have blocked 90,000 Facebook pages because of […]