On the new cybersecurity law

27 01 2019

Thailand’s computer crimes law was enacted by the last junta-installed regime led by Gen Surayud Chulanont, plucked from the king’s Privy Council by the royalist-military junta to be prime minister. One of his regime’s last acts was that draconian law. Surayud returned to the Privy Council.

One of the last pieces of the current military dictatorship will be a new  cybersecurity law. That law will strengthen and extend upon the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. It is feared:

will create a government agency with sweeping powers of search and seizure, triggering concerns for freedom of expression and data security among civil society and business groups as elections loom.

The draft law will create a committee “that it will consist of up to 15 members, including the prime minister and the deputy prime minister…”. It will be empowered to “seize computers and data without a court warrant in the case of an emergency.”

Of course, the question is: What constitutes an emergency? Arthit Suriyawongkul, coordinator at Thai Netizen Network says: “It’s likely that every cyber threat will be considered an emergency, making a court order irrelevant…”. Arthit adds: “In the past five years, there’s been an abuse of power. If you talk about the monarchy or the NCPO [junta] online they count that as a cyber threat.”

Pavin Chachavalpongpun noted that heavy use of the lese majeste law by the junta to silence those critical of the monarchy and military junta. He notes that King Vajiralongkorn “doesn’t want more lese-majeste cases, so there’s been a significant drop in the last year. The palace wants cyber laws to be used instead…”. He might have added sedition and other laws that stifle dissent.

Using the existing law and junta edicts, the regime has been active in online censorship:

According to Facebook, it only complied with one 2017 request for user data from Thailand’s military government. In 2018, it restricted 285 posts deemed in violation of the same law.

Google meanwhile said the NCPO made requests to remove 9,986 items identified as critical of the government in 2017 and complied with 93 percent of requests made.

Other, far more draconian measures are also being used to silence criticism.





Digital dopes

30 07 2018

Something called OpenGov sells itself as “entrepreneurial” and with a “purpose” to “Inform and Empower,” but unfortunately chooses to do this by being “dedicated to sharing ICT-related knowledge and information between governments.” Naturally enough it seems to reside in state-heavy Singapore.

Its recent article on Thailand it claims that “Thailand” is “looking to promote equality when it comes to digital access. The Thai government has partnered up with Google in a bid to reduce the digital divide that exists in Thailand.”

Interesting indeed that the military dictatorship is partnered with Google.

It reports on the “first Google for Thailand event … held in Bangkok yesterday under the theme of ‘Leave No Thai behind’. During the event [G]oogle announced a series of initiatives that it will be undertaking, in partnership with the Thai government. These initiatives include, free high speed public Wi-fi that will enable more Thai businesses and consumers to contribute to the growth of the digital economy.”

No Thai left behind, in Bangkok. As might be expected, Bangkok already has the highest internet penetration rates, with one measure listing it among the world’s top 25 cities. For the country, with about 33 million users, Thailand ranks 116th in percentage of population served.

But back to the article. Back in 2013, it says, the “Thai government announced that it was working towards increasing digital access in Thailand through increasing mobile penetration from 52% to 133% in 2020.” In terms of smartphone penetration, Thailand actually ranks about 31st in percentage terms.

So Thailand ranks reasonably high and Bangkok is probably fully saturated. So the deal seems to be about business and providing (precarious) employment for more people.

In other words, the “partnership” is about assisting the military dictatorship, but the article says nothing about the junta’s efforts to control the internet, its massive censorship of online discussion and its ubiquitous snooping.

So all the text on “opportunities.” “easy access” and feeling “more secure with accessing national and important information online” is waffle and ignores the basic political fact: Thailand is not open.

And neither is OpenGov when it mentions “the Prime Minister of Thailand” and its “government” without noting that the former is a military dictator and the latter is a military junta.





Further updated: Technical or testing?

7 05 2017

Several readers alerted us to the problems at 3BB on Saturday. Thaitech reported that subscribers “report problems when trying to access Google services such as Gmail, Google News and YouTube.” The impact was nationwide and for about 14 hours.

The Bangkok Post reported with the headline: “Ministry denies blocking attempt in 3BB meltdown.” This was because many users assumed that the military junta was again meddling, driven by its latest push to expunge or block all content it considers to constitute lese majeste.

These hunches may be right. For one thing, there seems no news from Google on the outage. And, while a later Thaitech report was headlined”3BB back to normal after major technical issues on Saturday,” it had nothing on the “technical issues,” saying only, “It is unclear what caused the issue.” And, most assuredly, the “issued seemed to affect anyone trying to access the sites from a Thai IP address.” So 3BB users on VPNs could access the services.

You get the picture.

Anyway, let’s have the official excuses as displayed in the Post article.

Telecommunication authorities … [are] saying it was merely a technical problem.

Somsak Khaosuwan, deputy permanent secretary and spokesman of the Digital Economy and Society Ministry, on Sunday said the inaccessibility was not the government’s attempt to control political content on video-sharing website YouTube.

… 3BB did not provide any explanation to the problem and customers could not reach its support call centre….

The comedians at the Digital Economy and Society Ministry insisted “it had never violated people’s rights by cooperating with Google to screen inappropriate content.” They are liars, and that leads to further speculation that they are interfering, not least because the outage was for so long that it suggested the ministry’s cack-handedness.

The idea that there was a “technical problem” associated with “a maintenance service to improve access to the popular video service [YouTube]” would need to be confirmed by Google. We have to say that we have never heard of such a long outage for “maintenance” before, but we aren’t techies.

3BB’s chief operating officer Yodchai Asawathongchai reportedly said that the “inaccessibility started at 9am on Saturday because an overseas team of Google conducted a repair and maintenance task.” The ISP’s boss said it “was waiting for more detailed explanations from Google.”

So is everyone else.

*For those interested in VPNs, and proxies, where this is a useful site.

Update 1: https://pantip.com/topic/36426362/comment7 comments that there was maintenance. It says all ISPs were advised and all but 3BB rerouted. Help us out here techies. Does this explain how VPN users on 3BB could access the sites?

Update 2: We fixed the bit marked above with a *. We are dummies, confusing proxies and VPNs.





Getting headlines wrong

21 04 2017

Brief corrections to two stories in the media that mislead, both noted by PPT readers.

First, at Prachatai, there’s a report headlined “Junta blocks Youtube channel of exiled Thai journalist.” This is a story that reports the censorship of a YouTube channel run by exiled journalist Jom Petpradab called Jom Voice. He makes his program in the US and is critical of the regime. The story adds:

In 2014, after he was summoned by the junta, he fled Thailand to live in the US where he founded Thaivoicemedia.com, a web-based Thai media outlet in exile. The website is also blocked by the government.

Correction: As far as we are aware, the blocking of a YouTube channel is the work of YouTube, a Google subsidiary. The military dictatorship’s minions might have asked for the blocking but it is Google’s YouTube that does the blocking.

Google’s policy states:

Government requests to remove content
We regularly receive requests from courts and government agencies around the world to remove information from Google products. Sometimes we receive court orders that don’t compel Google to take any action. Instead, they are submitted by an individual as support for a removal request. We closely review these requests to determine if content should be removed because it violates a law or our product policies. In this report, we disclose the number of requests we receive in six-month periods.

The latest report we could find at Google is for the end of 2015 and then they counted nearly 5,000 government requests for censorship. No information was listed for Thailand. It states that: “From July to December 2015, the top three products for which governments requested removals were YouTube, Web Search, and Blogger.” It adds: “From July to December 2015, governments from around the world requested that we remove 6144 items from YouTube. Of these, we removed 4242 items—3498 due to legal reasons, and 744 found to be violations of YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”

Google has been named previously as working with the military dictatorship.

Second, at the Bangkok Post, there’s a headline “Future govts ‘won’t face curbs’.” It’s first paragraph states: “The government has given assurances that a bill supporting its 20-year national development blueprint will not restrict future elected governments from making changes to the plan as they see fit.”

The puppet National Legislative Assembly, without a single dissenting voice, voted “to accept the government’s bill setting out action plans for national reforms for deliberation…”.

But here is how junta minion Wissanu Krea-ngam is actually reported:

… Wissanu … told the meeting that the national strategy bill will set out action plans for long-term national development as stipulated by the new constitution.

Mr Wissanu allayed concerns that the 20-year national development strategy will cripple future elected governments’ ability to run the country.

The bill still allows future governments to adjust the 20-year plan to suit changing circumstances both at home and abroad, though any changes must be in line with the law and the constitution, he said….

…[H]e said, a range of measures will be in place to enforce compliance with national strategy, including warnings and coercive measures.

If state agencies fail to comply despite warnings, the National Anti-Corruption Commission will be asked to take action against the chiefs of those agencies, Mr Wissanu said.

This plan is deemed to take precedence over all others. It is binding on all agencies,” Mr Wissanu said.

Correction: Wissanu actually warned future “elected” governments that will most certainly be restricted from making any changes to the military junta’s plan for 20 years.





No help from LINE

5 11 2016

PPT should have posted this a couple of days ago. We fell behind.

Readers will recall that just over a week ago we posted about the social media firm LINE being “called in” by Minister for Digital Economy and Society, Air Chief Marshal Prajin Junthong. Prajin declared that “Line headquarters in Japan will set up a steering committee to investigate reports of lèse-majesté.”

Go to jailThis came after a similar announcement from the military junta’s Prajin that Google and YouTube were on board for cooperation with the dictatorship in hunting down allegedly lese majeste content.

It remains unclear that Google and YouTube are cooperating in the manner that Prajin said they were. Google sort of mumbled something about “normal” processes, but they firm did not state explicitly that it rejected the junta’s demands. (If they have since said something emphatic, let us know.)

A report about LINE, however, indicates considerably more public backbone.

The report states, “LINE has refused the Thai government’s request that it monitor people’s chats and report content deemed to violate the lese-majeste law, a company representative said yesterday.”

The representative stated: “We do not monitor or block user content. User content is also encrypted, and cannot be viewed by LINE…”.

The Thai government, LINE said, “needed to proceed according to international laws.”

The 33 million people who use LINE in Thailand an take some heart from this.





Line falls into line

28 10 2016

After Google was said by the military dictatorship to have cooperated in hunting down allegedly lese majeste content on Google platforms including YouTube, we are now told that Line is also falling into line.

Minister for Digital Economy and Society, Air Chief Marshal Prajin Junthong, has declared that “Line headquarters in Japan will set up a steering committee to investigate reports of lèse-majesté.”

So when he met with “representatives from Line, the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) and the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC)” on 27 October, this was to confirm the arrangement.

We again note that this news is from the junta, but it does appear Google caved in before the junta, despite weak denials that have no details. Meanwhile, the “minister stated that the junta has received close cooperation from Google and Youtube after their meetings last weekend, with many lèse-majesté web pages blocked since then.”

After the meeting with Line representatives, the air force General “told media that Line is willing to comply with the junta’s censorship measures, saying the Line headquarters in Japan will set up a steering committee to investigate reports of lèse-majesté.” He added that the “committee will coordinate with the Thai embassy in Japan, NBCT, TCSD and INTERPOL in searching for lèse-majesté content and users.”

The military dictatorship will “talk with Facebook next week,” and the cave-in on freedom of expression is likely to continue.

The claim is that this is for the “national mourning for the late King,” but everyone knows that lese majeste repression is stock-in-trade for the military junta and that this period – however long it is – will continue.

The representatives of these companies have fallen for the military dictatorship’s nonsensical claim that lese majeste is an issue of national security, where “web pages and online content [are] threatening national security.”





Google named again

26 10 2016

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.

 





Updated: In bed with the fascist regime

23 10 2016

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.

Deputy Prime Minister ACM Prajin Junthong, who is also deputy junta head says he “has asked Google and YouTube to cooperate in blocking websites and videos with alleged lèse majesté content.”censorship-1

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.





Online censorship pressure

1 02 2016

A couple of days ago PPT posted on the military regime pressuring Google to censor without a court order. When we look back at that post we realize that we neglected to mention that the main area of concern was posts and videos about the monarchy. It goes without saying….

censorship-for-the-internetReuters reports that the military government is also trying to get more censorship out of Facebook and Line. The story is taken up at the Bangkok Post, saying that “[e]xecutives of the giant social media outlets … have been called to a meeting by the national reform assembly over monitoring and removing content considered a security threat to Thailand.” Yes, the monarchy.

While Reuters says the committee now says it is emphasizing content for which there is a court order, this is spin and the leaked document about Google made this clear. Nothing like trying to clean up after you’ve made a mess.

Arthit Suriyawongkul, a coordinator of the Thai Netizens Network advocacy group, says this attempt to have Google act is against Thai law: “Under the Computer Crime Act, if internet users post content suspected of violating the law, any accusations against them must be verified by a court before action is taken…”.

It seems that Thailand’s lawmakers don’t care too much about following the law.





Pressuring Google

30 01 2016

There’s been some ongoing discussions between Google and the military dictatorship.

A couple of days ago at Khaosod it is reported that, according to a leaked but apparently official document, “Thai officials [have] asked Google to make an exception and remove content without a court order…”.

In what was described as a second meeting between Google’s legal representatives and a junta censorship committee on 22 January, “Google Vice President General Counsel Matt Sucherman and the self-described ‘Media Reform Committee’.”

Over the past few years, Google reports that it has rejected requests from the Thailand government for information on user accounts and so on.

The document was “leaked by Thai net freedom advocates hours before Anonymous-aligned hacktivists shut down 20 Department of Corrections websites Thursday morning.”

The document reveals that the “Media Reform Committee,” dominated by military officers, requested that “Google to immediately take down content the military government deems to be illegal without asking for a court order.” It states: “We would like Google to expedite the process of website removal once it is requested by qualified authorities to save from the possible damage of time, as it will not correct the situation if we wait for the court process…”.

Google responded that “it would not make exception to its worldwide policy for Thailand…”.

Interestingly, the junta’s committee encouraged/threatened Google (we guess it depends on context, but we’d go with threat as the military acts in Mafia-like ways). Like a Don, the committee said Google should “think about the relationship between Thailand and the United States.” And in the best of Mafia traditions, held out a reward; it offered to help Google’s business in Thailand.