Keeping the country orderly and organized

29 12 2015

The Nation has a couple of articles that look at the Computer Crimes law.

In the first article, Sarinee Achawanantakul, who is President of the Foundation of Internet and Civic Culture or the Thai Netizen Network, argues that “[p]ressing ‘like’ on a[n allegedly] defamatory message posted on Facebook is certainly not a crime…”.

Clicking “like” on a Facebook post, according to Sarinee,”… should not violate Article 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act, which is meant to punish those who propagate false information regarding national security and stability, or information that pertains to obscenity. This is especially so as Facebook “prevents users from setting their preferences to control how their ‘likes’ are displayed or with whom they are shared.” In addition, “Facebook posts can always be edited by the person who posted the original message, and thus the full significance of ‘likes’ cannot always be conclusively evaluated.”Facebook-Like-Button

Seems reasonable to PPT, but not to the authorities who enforce this law and lese majeste. As Sarinee notes, in the current political climate, which is repressive, there is encouragement for “a biased interpretation of the law that results in unjust outcomes…”. In addition, Sarinee said “the Act’s current application is far beyond the original definition of the Act and therefore could be considered ‘dangerous’.”

The second article sets out an official view, and as would be expected, it is chilling. Police Colonel Olarn Sukkasem, said to be the superintendent of the Technology Crime Suppression Division, Central Investigation Bureau, and in charge of enforcing the Computer Crime Act, sees “likes” as identifying “social media conspirators.”

“Liking” defamatory content on Facebook sparks debate on whether acknowledging such posts should be considered a crime. On the one hand, authorities say the action is deemed as supporting dissent, but on the other, cyber-liberty advocates say Facebook “likes” only constitute support of the online record of a pre-existing act. “Liking” a message that turns out to be identified as “controversial or defamatory … on Facebook is certainly a crime as it shows support for the content.”Facebook-Dislike-Button

The colonel equates this action as “on par with cheering someone who has murdered a victim.”

Olarn warned that clicking “like” was “showing support for the content. If they perform any action regarding the message whatsoever … that are contributing to the message.” He views this as an act that “threatens national security and stability.”

The superintendent “admitted that the police have limited resources and they cannot arrest all wrongdoers in this context.” He said police:

… do prioritise their list of arrest warrants based on the actions of the suspects. For instance, if a thousand people ‘like’ an inappropriate post, but one among them also posts other defamatory photos or messages, that person would be arrested first…. The superintendent said in that case some people might be considered guiltier than others, although all of the thousand Facebook conspirators would be considered legally guilty…. Olarn added that the person who went to the trouble of adding other photos or messages would potentially be considered more “dangerous” than the others.

He admitted that Facebook-related arrests were unlikely in other countries where the Thai arrests were sen as “an extreme reaction…”. However, he said “critics of Thailand should not be oversensitive about the issue.”

Olarn “explained” that “Thai people had been used to limitless freedom, which had caused society to become disorganised. Something had to be done to stop people from exercising their free will without enough consideration about others…”. He added that the country’s “current socio-political situation is abnormal and stringent law enforcement in society is needed to keep the country orderly and organised…”.

He means repressed and suppressed.


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