YouTube capitulates (again)

5 01 2021

YouTube has caved in again, falling on its face before dictators, and geoblocked Rap Against Dictatorship’s “Reform/ปฏิรูป.” The rap was released in support of the “campaign to reform the royal institution…”. We assume Khaosod means the monarchy.

When we checked, the YouTube version had been viewed 9.8 million times since 13 November.

It was only a week ago that the regime was griping and threatening social media providers, and YouTube has accommodated its campaign to limit freedom of expression.

As we currently understand it, “Reform/ปฏิรูป” remains available using a VPN, at Vimeo, and at Spotify.

Their earlier protest rap is, hopefully, not blocked.





Maintaining the monarchy’s secrets

12 12 2020

As lese majeste charges pile up, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta – one of Suthep Thaugsuban’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee men – seems to think that the best way to douse the flames of anti-monarchism is to cut off sources of information.

That’s about what we’d expect from a rightist with a track record of censorship for the monarchy. His last effort was against Pornhub, where Buddhipongse declared “that the decision was not related to a clip featuring an important Thai personality that was posted on the website.” Everyone knew he was talking about the king and his former wife, the latter having been treated loathsomely by the former, and that the clip of her near naked was the reason for the ban.

This month, Buddhipongse is seeking to censor critics of the monarchy and those who provide information on the monarchy that the regime and palace would prefer remained secret.

DES claims to have sent “evidence” to police and to be seeking “legal action against social media platforms that fail to remove URLs deemed inappropriate.” The PDRC minister said “the ministry has asked the Royal Thai Police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) to take action against a total of 496 URLs which violated the Computer Crime Act and security laws between Oct 13 and Dec 4.”

Marshall

Of these, “284 URLs are on Facebook, 81 on YouTube, 130 on Twitter, and the rest on other platforms,” with DES identifying “19 account owners — 15 on Facebook and four on Twitter…”.

The ministry is after “Andrew MacGregor Marshall, who faces 74 court orders to block 120 URLs; Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who faces 50 court orders to block 66 URLs, and Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who faces 194 court orders to block 439 URLs.” This time, the PDRC minister is also going after anti-government protesters, with court orders to block two of Arnon Nampa’s URLs and four of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak.

Pavin

Um, that’s already 631 URLs…. Something is wrong with the numbers, but let’s just say that the regime reckons these social media activists are lighting the fire under the protesters, so dousing them, they mistakenly think, will put out the anti-monarchism. In a sense, to mix metaphors, the DES and the regime are trying to put the horses back in the barn after thousands of them have bolted.

This time, the PDRC minister is also going after anti-government protesters, with court orders to block two of Arnon Nampa’s URLs and four of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak.

Somsak

The ministry’s public cyber vigilantes are continuing to report anything and everything. Last month alone, these royalist screenwatchers reported, via the “Volunteers Keep an Eye Online” webpage, 11,914 URLs. Of these, even the ministry could only deem 826 of them “illegal” while the pliant courts found 756 were to be blocked. The ministry and police must be inundated with work for the monarchy.

Buddhipongse is furious that the social media platforms don’t follow his orders, with Facebook blocking 98 of the 487 links he wanted blocked. Twitter removed 8 of 81 URLs. YouTube is far more pliant, blocking all 137 links the ministry flagged.

It is deeply concerning that these social media giants take seriously court orders from a judiciary that is a tool of the regime in political cases and on the monarchy’s poor PR. All the same, the information and the monarchy’s secrets are out there, and the regime will not be able to sweep it away.





Updated: Army lies

12 10 2020

Army trolls

A few days ago, we posted on Twitter’s revelations that the Royal Thai Army has at least 926 accounts used in “information operations” against anti-government figures and opposition politicians. Naturally enough, the military and its regime responded. And, this bunch of dullards did so only they can.

The Bangkok Post reported that the regime and Army “have slammed Twitter, accusing it of unfairly linking them with nearly 1,000 accounts which the social media giant took down for being propagandist.” Yeah, right. Remember that this is a regime that has jailed hundreds for posts on social media. They claim they can track social media accounts, but, apparently, the company Twitter can’t. Seriously, how stupid are they and how stupid do they think Thais are?

The Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta went on the attack, seeming to acknowledge that the Twitter accounts belonged to the military, but blasting Twitter for not complying with orders issued by the regime’s tame courts “to take down accounts which contained defamatory content against the monarchy.” Some dolt must have told the minister that attack was the best form of defense.

It’s always about the monarchy when these dopes try to repel criticism, reverting to Pavlovian responses.

As it so often does, the Army simply denied it had any “information operations.” How thick are these people? It was only in February that official budget documents revealed such information operations.

To “help” out, deputy army spokeswoman Col Sirichan Ngathong decided to deny by stating something that’s true but irrelevant: “Unidentified user accounts had nothing to do with any official account of the army.” Ah, that’s the point of these operations; they are not meant to be official.

Khaosod reported that the accounts “were using randomized usernames and they had zero to 66 followers. The oldest account was created on May 27, 2014, five days after the coup which brought PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to power, while most of the accounts were created between Nov. 2019 to Feb. 2020.” It added that the majority of the 21,386 tweets by the accounts “promoted the works of the army and praised the monarchy with messages such as ‘Great work!,’ ‘I’m with you,’ and ‘Long live the king’.”

They became particularly active after “the mass shooting in Korat by a disgruntled soldier in February, in which they tried to disassociate the army from the shooter and honored the military’s role in bringing down the shooter.” Many of the messages attacked “opposition politicians, such as Thanathorn Juangruangroongkit and Pannika Wanich, the former executives of the now-disbanded Future Forward Party.”

Khaosod also pointed out that the Army’s cack-handed effort to distance itself from “Twitter’s accusations do not sit well with multiple reports that show army units routinely engaging in online information campaigns aimed at discrediting the opposition and upholding the Royal Family.” Back in 2016, “then-army chief Gen. Chalermchai Sittisart confirmed the force is engaging in information operations to suppress distorted information and create ‘better understanding’ with people on social media.”

In other words, they are liars. Indeed, damned liars.

Update: When they are not lying, they are shutting down stuff. Prachatai reports that its “video of human rights lawyer Anon Nampa in which he addresses monarchy reform is inaccessible…” on YouTube.  A “YouTube spokesperson has stated via email that it is operating in line with a Thai government request.” In other words, YouTube is working hand-in-glove with liars, trolls and dictators. In fact, the regime seldom uses a court order when requesting blocking: “According to the Google Transparency Report … during 2009-2019 the Thai government submitted 964 requests to delete content…. Of the requests, only 62 were endorsed by the Thai courts…”. Shameful that YouTube goes along with such rubbish.





Watching the republicans

15 04 2019

The military and its junta have apparently been maintaining close surveillance of republicans, or at least those they think and/or guess are republicans. Perhaps it has something to do with the coronation, which has seen increasing efforts to “cleanse” the reign of opponents.

Prachatai reports that on 2 April, “plainclothes officers also arrested Thoedsak (last name withheld), another defendant in the Thai Federation case. Officers presented him with an arrest warrant and took him in a van from Phuket while he was working as a private chauffeur.”

The Thai Federation case is linked to republicans in exile, some of whom were murdered (see links in out first paragraph above).

This was followed by what looks remarkably like another Keystone Cops effort.

Prachatai cites Thai Lawyers for Human Rights on a police pursuit and arrest of a “56-year-old civil servant on suspicion of involvement in the Thai Federation movement.” Identified only as Rani, the 56 year-old civil servant was arrested at Sukhothai Thammathirat University where she was attending her son’s graduation. She was:

arrested at 14.10 on Thursday (11 April) and charged under Article 209 of the Criminal Code for being a member of a secret society and under Article 116, the sedition law, for ‘expressing to the public by words, writing, or any other means, anything which is not an act within the purpose of the Constitution or for expressing an honest opinion or criticism in order to cause the people to transgress the law of the country’.

She has denied all charges and was released on bail on 13 April.

It is reported that “Rani was among a number of citizens under continuous surveillance.”

Rani’s political harassment seems to result from her wearing of a black t-shirt on 5 December 2018, the birthday of the most recently deceased king. She wore it to a mall. The shirt had no Thai Federation logo.

Presumably some observant and nervous royalist ratted her out to the cops and some five “plainclothes police officers came to speak to her and asked her to go with them, but she refused…”. She demanded to see and photograph officers’ ID cards.

Later, pictures appeared on YouTube and two days later, soldiers and police tried to search Rani’s house. She refused. Now she’s arrested and charged.

“Cleansing” is becoming a theme for the new reign, whether it is symbols of the anti-royalist past, palace officials, wives or those identified as opponents.





Updated: Rap against the military dictatorship

27 10 2018

There is a series of three articles at The Nation that report the military dictatorship’s predictable response to a group of 10 rappers and their popular video that raps the junta.

The video, at YouTube in two versions, has had close to 6 million views. There have been millions more on Facebook.

In the first report, Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul declaring that the song may be breaking the law and that “officers from the Technology Crime Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police will check out the lyrics to see if they violate any junta orders.”

Yes, the junta’s laws, not real laws, but the politicized repression and suppression shrouded in law. Confirming this, the political policeman added that the “rappers would also be summoned to testify whether they had intended to cause any chaos or violate any National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) orders…”.

The junta’s cop warned: “… musicians not to do anything that risks violating the country’s laws, as it wouldn’t be good for them or their families if the songs were deemed to violate the law…”.

Threatening opponents and their families is standard practice under the military dictatorship.

A few hours later, a second report states that the political police were to use the Computer Crimes Act against the rappers. It accuses the rap of breaking the political law that “prohibits computer information inconsistent with the truth, undermines national security or causes public panic…”. In this, “truth” is defined by the junta.

As might be expected, in one of his first public statements, new government spokesman, the anti-democrat Buddhipongse Punnakanta, claimed that the junta’s opponents were “behind” the video. Of course, anti-democrats like him and his bosses cannot conceive of any person being capable of independent thought.

The third report summarizes events and the song that denounces the junta. It notes that the rap was released on an important date: 14 October, being the 45th anniversary of the October 1973 uprising against a military dictatorship. The YouTube video also depicts 6 October 1976 royalist violence with an image of a student hanging from a tree being beaten, as in 1976.

Reflecting on the junta’s “truth,” one of the rappers stated: “As artists we want to reflect the truth of the society we are living in under dictatorship. Thailand seems to be caught in a loop of dictatorship. We want to voice what the majority cannot say directly.”

The video is dedicated to the victims of the state’s crimes.

Update: With the military dictatorship in full panic mode over the popularity of this rap, Puea Thai’s Chaturon Chaisaeng is reported to have warned the junta against arresting the performers of the anti-junta song. He said said that “if the Rap Against Dictatorship (RAD) group was arrested, it would backfire against the government to the point where the government could fall.”





No criticism

5 12 2017

Khaosod reports that the military junta released social media “personality” Natchapol Supattana (or Mark Pitbull) from custody on Saturday evening.

This release followed his “detention” for stating that the junta’s “popularity” is in decline, posted on YouTube, with his 500,000 followers. His evidence for declining “popularity” reflected on the arrest of anti-coal protesters in the south.

He pointed out the obvious (and a point PPT made): “I believe the government is in a downturn, because they keep making enemies. Friends who used to love them are now parting ways…”.

For this rather mild opinion often seen in the mainstream media, he “was sent to a special military prison for ‘attitude adjustment’…”. A junta spokesman justified this act of harsh repression by claiming: “Some of his information was not based on facts … and appeared to be inciting unrest…”.

This is nonsense, but the junta’s man added a warning that any criticism of the junta on Facebook and YouTube would not be tolerated. The intolerant are becoming even more intolerant.





Junta, YouTube conspire to repress 1932

24 06 2017

The military dictatorship seems to have convinced YouTube that four minutes of Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator with Thai subtitles, denouncing dictatorship and praising the people, unity and dem0cracy, is against the law in Thailand. The video of the movie’s closing speech  was reported as geo-blocked for Thailand.

The Dictator wanted it blocked because it showed a replica of himself and was attached to the memorialization of 1932.

Try this version:

This situation shows the stupidity and preciousness of the gang of thugs monopolizing power in Thailand. And, if the reports are accurate, as we predicted, it shows the gross stupidity and/or gross profit motivation of YouTube and other online outfits that agree to geo-block anything a that comes from any ruling gang with a court order.

As we said, writing of Facebook, Thailand’s military junta can order up anything it likes from its courts, all of them the junta’s tools.

That is Facebook’s [and YouTube’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 home delivery pizza. Thailand’s Dictator gorges and it seems YouTube cleans up for him.

This makes Facebook [and YouTube] a pawn in the hands of governments, both legitimate and illegitimate. They do the dictatorship’s work.

The full movie, without Thai subtitles, Chaplin’s Great Dictator is available in full.





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.”





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.