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.





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.





The emperor’s clothes may not be seen

5 05 2017

When the king is in residing in his beloved Germany, he is prone to behave in ways that are not seen in Thailand. The German media paparazzi has shown the king dressed in casual, indeed, in odd ways (see left).

No Thailand-based media outlet has dared to publish pictures or video of the casual king, although in the past they did publish photos of his father in casual – but not odd – attire such as Hawaiian shirts and shorts.

In Thailand, this king is portrayed in particular ways, usually at ceremonies and fully garbed in (usually) a military uniform (see below) or a dress suit.

It seems that the military junta is engaged in efforts to prevent Thais in Thailand from seeing the king in all his foreign “fashion” glory.

Prachatai reports that the junta has managed to convince Facebook to block pictures of the “German king” in Thailand.

It states:

On 4 May 2017, the exiled academic Somsak Jeamteerasakul announced on his Facebook that he has received an email from Facebook informing that one of his statuses violates Thailand’s 2007 Computer Crimes Act (CCA). Facebook has subsequently decided to restrict access to the post in Thailand.

“We’re contacting you because the Ministry of Digital Economy & Society [MDE] has sent us a Court Order issued by the Judge Tassanee Leelaporn and Judge Somyod Korpaisarn of the Criminal Court of Thailand stating that the following post you made on Facebook violates Section 14(3) of the Computer Crimes Act B.E. 2550 (2010),” read the email.

A court order from royalist judges is, for the dictators, a bit like sitting on the toilet – easy, normal and convenient. As we have stated previously, the courts in Thailand have been made a royalist tool for political repression.

Section 14(3) is about national security. As many readers will recall, a military junta has determined that the monarchy is a matter of “national security.” In the small military mind, this means that seeing photos of the king dressed casually is a threat to national security.

That Facebook accepts this kind of bizarre claim means that any crazy regime can enact any law it pleases and the Facebook money counters will comply (at least when they have a decent market in that tinpot dictatorship).

So now, instead of seeing Somsak’s post of a king in odd clothing users in Thailand get a message: “Content unavailable in Thailand.”

Prachatai states that:

According to Somsak, the blocked post is a video clip of a man believed to be King Vajiralongkorn walking in a shopping mall in Germany. Before its removal, the video had generated over 400,000 views.

That bit about “a man believed to be the king” is odd indeed, but there you are, Thailand under the military dictatorship and mad monarchists is an odd place. It resembles a children’s tale made very scary for its reality.





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.





Updated: More lese majeste censorship

26 04 2017

The military junta is again exercised by lese majeste, suggesting they may be getting a boot in the backside from the new and the easily annoyed king.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, a regulator, and the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society which is actually a censorship ministry, have, according to the Bangkok Post, “reiterated their demand that all internet service providers (ISPs) and international internet gateway providers block webpages and content that contain or promote illegal acts or breach Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law.”

“Illegal acts” usually mean things like sedition, gambling and pornography, but previous bouts of blocking and censoring have mostly been about lese majeste.

The junta has demanded that these agencies do more to protect the tawdry reputation of the king. It wants ISP cooperation “to remove illicit video streaming on Facebook and YouTube from their local network server, called a content delivery network (CDN).”

Takorn Tantasith, the NBTC secretary-general, opined that there’s been “good cooperation between the regulator and the ministry” but that “the government [he means military junta] hopes for more, and expects better result by next month…”.

Takorn is dutifully and enthusiastically calling for “serious cooperation” from ISPs and international internet gateway (IIGs) providers to “block webpages … after receiving a court order or when their own monitoring staff finds such [offending] material.” He demands that they “immediately inform the NBTC or DE if they cannot block a webpage due to it being encrypted overseas.” When that happens, these agencies again say they will “ask cooperation from embassies and the Foreign Ministry…”.

A more difficult area is when content they don’t like derives from “online video or video streaming stored with ISP servers in country on their CDN or cache server.”

It also seems that the Ministry and the NBTC are “reiterating their warning to people not to ‘follow’ or correspond with three well-known opponents of the regime, who are now living overseas.” This means exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, exiled political scientist Pavin Chachavalpongpun and journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall.

This military dictatorship has tied itself to the monarchy, meaning that, at least for the time being, it will reflect the views from the king, and he has shown that he is intolerant and violent.

Update: Prachatai has background on the NBTC’s new role on censoring streaming and online video. It also has information on a probably related piece of legislation that gives police the right to intercept communications. Welcome to the new reign (of terror).