THAILAND: Social Media, the New Censorship Kryptonite?

ELIZABETH NAAI WRITES – China and the U.S. are not alone in the trenches of cyber warfare. The 4th Army Region has taken up mouses and keyboards to uphold lese majeste in an increasingly connected Thailand.

Task Force 45 of the Thahan Phran — hunter soldiers — left a deluge of 1,699,038 pro-monarchical comments on blogs and chat rooms in four months. Equipped with widely contested Computer Crimes Act of 2007, they also access IP addresses from service providers and prosecute expressions that are offensive to the monarchy. Last year, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, then director of the online news source Prachatai, received a one year sentence for failure to promptly remove 10 provocative comments.

The government’s allocation of resources to monitor websites is prompted by the 18 million Thais connected to the ever-expanding Internet. Conversely, some of that 18 million have demanded government transparency in response to this ‘secretive’ trolling operation.

Thailand’s Development Research Institute (TDRI) and Premchaiporn, now director of the Foundation for Community Education, organized the Media Inside Out seminar on May 30. The forum advocated government incorporation of social media to bolster public access to news outlets. According to a recent poll, most Thais only use social media sites for personal interactions. If the government employs such services to disseminate information Thais would have avenues to not only be an audience but also journalists or activists.

Meeting TRDI and Premchaiporn’s transparency requests means more Thais would be encouraged to subscribe to social media. Will more subscribers incite conversation surrounding the Computer Crimes Act and lese majeste?

Tags: Elizabeth Naai, Thailand, lese majeste, Thailand’s Development Research Institute, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Task Force 45 of the Thahan Phran, Computer Crimes Act of 2007, Prachatai, Bangkok Post, Human Rights, Media Inside Out, Foundation for Community Education, censorship issues,

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