Farming digital politics

15 06 2017

Many readers will have seen reports that a group described as Chinese were arrested with 474 mobile phones and 347,200 SIM cards.

The police grabbed the team in Sa Kaew and stated that this was a social media farm. The initial reports stated that the “three suspects confessed that they earned Bt100,000 [per month, presumably] for using the WeChat app to generate Internet traffic that could have misled vendors of Chinese products…”.

This scam was said to have not been used in Thailand. In any case, as one digital business “leader” explained, why would Thai businesses or other use these Chinese when “many Thais were also hired to click likes on certain posts in huge quantities but they got much lower fees than their Chinese counterparts.”

There were some oddities. One was that the photos showed most of the SIMs unused. Then it was said police found another farm with more than 100,000 SIM cards, although the “two Chinese men [who] had rented the place … left suddenly on Sunday night.”

Enter The Dictator. He “ordered police to extend their investigation … to determine if there was a hidden political or business agenda behind such crimes.” General Prayuth Chan-ocha “wanted police to find out whether people were using similar methods for political purposes, such as inciting the public or insulting the monarchy, in addition to commercial or other illegal activity…”.

One reason for this turned out to be that The Dictator is irked that all those people he hates – politicians – have millions of “likes” and “followers.” He particularly complained about Yingluck Shinawatra. But he was also thinking of those “nasties” he thinks are behind all the lese majeste he sees in every nook and cranny of the web.

Perhaps he should have asked how it was that some of these farmers were tipped off about the raid.

Perhaps he should have asked how these “illegal foreigners” could by up to half a million SIM cards from Thailand’s mobile network operators and other firms.

Perhaps he could have asked why it is claimed there “no Thai laws [that] can be used to prosecute them for manipulating social media, as they reportedly targeted only Chinese products.”

Perhaps he could have asked which officials are protecting the farmers and raking in the baht.