On Sunday PPT posted a story about Deputy Prime Minister Air Chief Marshal Prajin Junthong having “asked Google and YouTube to cooperate in blocking websites and videos with alleged lèse majesté content.” He claimed Ann Lavin, Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs in Asia Pacific, Google Asia Pacific and she “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…”.
We added that that team has reportedly begun work.
We also said that this was a junta-sourced claim. Sure enough, Google “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.” That is, its standard operating procedure and nothing special for the junta. The implication was that the junta was not entirely truthful.
Now it seems that it was the junta that was more truthful. A report in the Bangkok Post states that the junta claims a “joint blocking effort” with Google has seen almost 100 YouTube addresses or URLs “blocked over the past four days for insulting the monarchy…”. Four days exactly matches the joint teams establishment claimed by the junta.
The military regime also claims that “[a]nother 380 web addresses … run by a subsidiary of Google, are in the process of being blocked…”.3
How does 480 URLs compare with previous Thai government requests approved by Google?
Our not always competent mathematicians got to work and calculated that for the period 2010 to 2013, the various governments made 21 requests for 754 “items” (we assume URLs). The big years were 2011 (374 items) and 2013 (322). After that, 2014 saw 18 requests for 73 items and 2015 saw 33 requests for 1,566 items. Of these items, for 2010 to June 2012, 100% of requests were partially or fully processed, blocking 431 items. For the following years, requests were not fulfilled entirely in 2013 (27% approved), 2014 (56%) and 2015 (85%). It is not clear how many items were fully or partially blocked. Only one of these requests over the entire period was on the basis of a court order. It doesn’t say it, but the majority of items relate to monarchy.
So 480 items in a few days is huge! 2016 will probably be a bumper year for the junta and will see Google folding under even more. A regime source stated that the “government [the military junta] needs strong assistance from Google to permanently remove all the web addresses showing inappropriate videos on YouTube…”.
The censorship success with Google has inspired the military dictatorship, and it is now calling in “representatives of Facebook this week to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation in blocking users that post content or comments insulting the monarchy.”
The media giants are falling into line for the worlds longest serving military regime. The junta is actually playing the death card effectively, using it to further tighten repression in Thailand.
We are pretty sure that PigProgress won’t be one of those blocked. It might be an odd outlet, but it has joined in with a laudatory and fawning article on the dead king among other items on robust piglets and gut problems in pigs.