Thai authorities will spy on the country’s popular mobile chat applications by infiltrating into chat groups which are suspected of disseminating anti-junta comments. The authorities are planning to meet Facebook and Google in Singapore next month to “ask for cooperation” in suspending dissidents’ accounts.
Pol Maj Gen Pisit Paoin, head of the junta-appointed working group responsible for censoring the internet, told the media on Thursday that the Ministry plans to spy on chat groups in LINE, a Japanese chat application which is very popular in the country, in order to identify and arrest people who spread illegal content.
“We’ll send you a friend request. If you accept the friend request, we’ll see if anyone disseminates information which violates the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) orders,” the police said. “Be careful, we’ll soon be your friend.”
“We aim to control group chat. So if only two people are chatting, we won’t look into it. So I’d like to reiterate that if you receive any information deemed a violation of the [NCPO] orders, don’t forward it or spread it. Otherwise that will be deemed to be inciting conflict,” he added.
He added that individual LINE users do not have to be worried that they will be spied on because that would need consent from the application operator.
However, the police officer said the Ministry will next month send representatives to talk with three major social media operators, namely Facebook and Google in Singapore and LINE in Japan to suspend user accounts and block illegal content.
“The problem is these operators do not have representatives in Thailand. However, I just called a representative in Singapore, telling them that we plan to send a high level official to talk about the issue.”
Google do have an office in Bangkok as can be found here
Asked what would happen if the companies did not comply with the Thai authorities’ request, Pisit said the authorities will ask local ISPs to block the pages locally.
He added that a few hundred web pages have been blocked.
He said that the Ministry did not block Facebook on Wednesday when most Facebook users in Thailand reported that Facebook was inaccessible from around 4-5 pm, insisting that it was because of a technical problem.
Surachai Srisaracam, permanent secretary of the ICT Ministry, however told Reuters
on Wednesday that it had ordered ISPs to block Facebook briefly because the social network had been used to campaign against the military.
On Thursday, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC), the country’s telecommunication regulator, revealed some of the web pages which were on the blacklists.
The list has been sent to local ISPs and the country’s International Internet Gateway providers to have them blocked. Some of them are red-shirt websites, red-shirt twitter accounts, an anti-coup Facebook page, and a link to a YouTube video deemed to be lèse majesté, for example, said Thakorn Tantasit, an NBTC commissioner.
The home page of Prachatai.com, the sister Thai-language news website of Prachatai English, has been blocked by order of the military junta.