Facebook and lese majeste

26 05 2017

As we predicted, it seems that the military dictatorship has been able to convince Facebook to block the remaining 131 sites/URLs/posts that the junta deemed as containing lese majeste content.

We say “seems” because the reporting in The Nation is poorly written.

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society claims it “has managed to have Facebook block 131 remaining posts deemed illegal under a sweeping court order since Tuesday.”

When there was much lambasting of the Ministry and junta for its failed “deadline” threat to Facebook, we posted (linked above):

Of course, the junta can order up anything it likes from its courts, all of them the junta’s tools. That is Facebook’s problem, and not just for Thailand. Many governments, just like Thailand’s junta, have little legal legitimacy and can get a court order as easily as a takeaway pizza.

This makes Facebook a pawn in the hands of governments, both legitimate and illegitimate.

We assume that the garbled report at The Nation is saying that the royalists courts dutifully provided the court orders and Facebook, acting as if an algorithm, complied.





Facebook continues in Thailand

16 05 2017

The 10 am deadline for Facebook to remove 90-131 URLs (depends who you read) has passed. Facebook is still up and running in Thailand.

The Nation “explains” that the deadline was yet another piece of junta grandstanding (to use a Trumpism). It was a false and empty threat, at least as directed to Facebook.

To be clear, The Nation doesn’t quite say this, but it is the logical conclusion to draw from its reporting. Facebook “had not received official court orders to block the URLs so it could not make them inaccessible in Thailand.”

The deadline was false because the junta did not provide a court order for any of the 131 URLs. It is very well known, including by the junta’s showboat secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, Takorn Tantasith, who still appeared before the media, grandstanding about the media scam he had run.

He “explained” the “authorities had only sent court order No 31 to Facebook without providing details, and the US-based social media giant needs all the details.” He added that the “Digital Economy and Society Ministry will request court orders for all 131 URLs and it will send them to Facebook.”

What was the purpose of the junta’s grandstanding? We think that the military dictatorship was again seeking to threaten those accessing Facebook, warning them, trying to make them less likely to access any sites or pages that might be defined by the junta as “offending” the monarch or monarchy.

Of course, the junta can order up anything it likes from its courts, all of them the junta’s tools. That is Facebook’s problem, and not just for Thailand. Many governments, just like Thailand’s junta, have little legal legitimacy and can get a court order as easily as a takeaway pizza.

This makes Facebook a pawn in the hands of governments, both legitimate and illegitimate.





Facebook to be blocked?

15 05 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the the junta is pressuring ISPs to cut off Facebook on Tuesday morning. The report states:

The Thai Internet Service Provider Association (Tispa) says it is under government pressure to immediately shut down the all access to Facebook as early as Tuesday morning, over the social medium’s refusal to take down every post dictated.

Tispa said it could disconnect the content delivery network (CDN) originating Facebook’s server if the social media giant fails to meet Tuesday’s 10am deadline set by the government to remove illicit URLs or posts from its site.

All of this to prevent information about the king reaching the Thai people via social media. As the report states:

This would be a massive escalation of the battle over what the government has declared illegal posts on the internet, especially web pages and social media posts deemed to have defamed the high institution [they mean the monarchy].

More than 200 of the 309 pages nominated by the junta as “offending” have already been removed by Facebook.





Reporting successful internet censorship

12 05 2017

Khaosod reports that the “Royal Thai Army’s cyber unit claimed success Thursday in defending the monarchy online, saying it has gone after 820 offensive items since October.”

The report gets a little odd on the numbers, but essentially states that the “Army Cyber Center announced the figures at army headquarters in Bangkok, saying it was proof of progress in the crackdown against alleged online defamation of the royal family.”

We are guessing that almost all the references are to King Vajiralongkorn in the period since October, although we suppose some might have been critical of the dead king.

Assistant Army Chief Gen. Somsak Nilbanjerdkul was happy and “presented a plaque of recognition to those who performed [what he said were] excellent duties.”

Fascists like such symbols and recognition from big bosses.

The Director of the cyber snooping operation is Maj. Gen. Rittee Intravudh. He stated that “the center placed importance on cyber threats against the monarchy through social media.” The figures he provided were that “the 820 items targeted since October included 365 things posted to Facebook, 450 YouTube videos and five tweets.” He added that just “seven of the content creators were based outside Thailand..”.

The Major General did not reveal “how many led to actual blocking or removal.” Confusingly, the report then states: “435 sites defaming the monarchy have been shut down.” (That’s where the numbers get a bit screwy. Is it 435 or 820?)

Despite the huge crackdown and a whole-of-dictatorship effort at censorship, Rittee “said the center has discovered 274 new items, among them 120 made just last month.” Yet he reckons the trend is “that there will be less dissemination of content [defaming] the monarchy…”.

We are guessing, but perhaps the king’s fashions and the royal-inspired theft of the 1932 plaque are the things that the junta most wants to block and which it has been ordered to block.

He would he say if the snooping led to prosecutions. However, if they are getting awards for their work, we might assume prosecutions.

Rittee also revealed “some success in getting Facebook to block some posts from users in Thailand but acknowledged that some have learned how to circumvent such blocking.”

He said a “court has also recently ordered the blocking of 6,000 websites deemed critical of Thailand’s monarchy.”





Threatening Facebook for the king

12 05 2017

The military dictatorship is showing no signs of “transition” to anything other than political authoritarianism. Unless, that is, we include transition roads to feudalism and totalitarianism.

Like other authoritarian regimes, the military junta has decided that “protecting” the monarchy – indeed, the king – it want to control internationally-based internet sites and services it doesn’t like.

The Bangkok Post reports that the junta sees Facebook as “threatening,” at least to the monarchy, it has decided to threaten Facebook.

It has “given Facebook until Tuesday morning to remove 131 remaining posts by the Thai court order[ed offensive to the monarchy] or face legal action.”

That decision was said to have been “made by the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DE).” In other words, the military junta has ordered this threat.

Representatives of the Thai Internet Service Provider Association told the censors that Facebook had “removed 178 of 309 posts on the Criminal Court’s blacklist. The remaining 131 posts were still accessible in Thailand and Facebook did not explain why.”

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the junta would “press charges if the deadline was not met since it is empowered to control illicit content on websites by using the Computer Crime Act.” He added that “legal action would first be against Facebook Thailand and its partners…”.

The regime does seem to have become frantic and maniacal in this effort to expunge all content it considers to constitute a “threat” to the monarch and monarchy. We might guess that this also reflects the palace perspective.

One “suggestion” is that the regime must become more China-like in controlling the internet: “If a government needs to block all illegal content, they will have to use the China model — shutting down the entire Facebook service, which can block 80-90%.”





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.





Managing monarchy means more lese majeste repression

4 05 2017

The crisis of last week surrounded angst regarding child-killer using Facebook to broadcast a live video showing him killing his baby daughter before taking his own life. There was justifiable consternation about the use made of Facebook.

But just a few days later, what’s the big issue for the military dictatorship and the firms running Thailand’s internet connections? Of course, it’s lese majeste.

The junta has forced local internet service providers (ISPs) to further action on lese majeste. A corporate group “has emailed an official request to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking the company to block content on its web pages in Thailand that breaks the country’s strict lese majeste laws, as ordered by the Criminal Court.”

Thailand has some 41 million Facebook users, the largest social media network in the country, and that’s why Facebook is targeted.

The Criminal Court has reportedly “ordered some 6,900 web pages or websites to be shut down since 2015.”

The group emailing Zuckerberg is said to account for “95% of internet traffic in Thailand,” and includes companies such as “Advanced Wireless Network, DTAC TriNet, CS LoxInfo, CAT Telecom, TOT Plc, Symphony Communication, United Information Highway, Internet Thailand, KSC Commercial Internet and Jasmine Internet.”

Their pleading to Facebook seems to be about “around 600 pages, mostly on Facebook, that local ISPs cannot block because they are encrypted, with the host servers located abroad.” The email “lists the URLs of the Facebook pages and other pages that are deemed illegal in Thailand.”

As the report confirms, “[a]ll of the content in question either contains or promotes breaches of Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, known as the lese majeste law.”

This emailed pleading is driven by the junta’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the Digital Economy and Society Ministry having “ordered all ISPs and IIG to block illicit web pages and content deemed illegal by the court within the next seven days, or risk having their licences revoked.”

The junta is threatening profits in order to protect its king.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith “said he believed the 600 Facebook pages would be blocked soon.”

The junta is more worried now about lese majeste than it has been since its coup. That’s because it is unable to control the public’s “view” of the monarch. When the previous king was in hospital, his image was easily managed. That’s not the case for the erratic King Vajiralongkorn.