We guess it should not be any surprise at all, but after years of trying, a report at Prachatai indicates that, by using the death of the king and the extraordinarily gushing reporting that is appearing, the military dictatorship has finally signed up some of the big, global, internet firms to the junta’s parochial, nasty and repressive internet censorship program.
We should note that the account is from the junta itself, so we do hope that the firms involved are willing to deny the accuracy of the report.
He says that on 21 October 2016, he invited Ann Lavin, the Director of Public Policy of Google’s Southeast Asia and Greater China Office, to a meeting where censorship was the topic. The American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore lists her as “Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs in Asia Pacific, Google Asia Pacific.” It also notes that she has been a member and executive of several organizations with links into the palace.
The junta’s website states that “Prajin consulted with Lavin about ways to block websites and video clips deemed defamatory or offensive to the Thai [m]onarchy.”
According to the junta, Lavin “placed great importance on the case under the current circumstances after the recent death of King Bhumibol.” We are not at all sure why the death of a king (or anyone else) should be cause for censorship.
The report states that Lavin “agreed to set up an ad hoc team in the US to monitor alleged lèse majesté content with Thai nationals in the team and adjust the complaint form in the Thai language to make it easier for Thai people to file complaints about such online content…”. That team has reportedly begun work.
The junta “will also set up a team in Thailand to send web addresses and URLs of people alleged to have posted such online content to the Google team after which the team will consider within 24 hours whether the content should be blocked.” Prajin added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “will send a request to the US to obtain information from Google about people who post lèse majesté content on the internet…”.
Prajin noted that “on 19-20 October, 120 people, mostly Thais, reportedly posted online content deemed offensive to the … monarchy.” It is not clear if this refers to persons overseas, in Thailand or both.
The junta’s deputy leader said that pressure would also be brought to bear on Line and Facebook.
The junta is using the king’s death to promote and embed its politics and enhanced censorship is critical for the junta in denying critical voices.
Update: Above, we stated: We should note that the account is from the junta itself, so we do hope that the firms involved are willing to deny the accuracy of the report. At The Nation, it is stated:
INTERNET giant Google has denied it is monitoring posts by Thai social media users but said it would simply consider Thai government requests to remove certain sensitive posts on a case-by-case basis.
Google was reacting to a claim by Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong that it would help the government scan sensitive posts during the mourning period for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
In a statement to The Nation, Google said: “We have always had clear and consistent policies for removal requests from governments around the world. We have not changed those policies in Thailand.
“We rely on governments around the world to notify us of content that they believe is illegal through official processes, and will restrict it as appropriate after a thorough review. All of these requests are tracked and included in our Transparency Report.”
We’d tend to believe Google as the junta has a terrible record of lying. Let’s see if Prajin responds.