ICT Ministry to amend law to read encrypted websites

The proposed amendments to the controversial Computer Crime Act will increase online surveillance and censorship by expanding legal boundaries and obliging Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to comply with government censorship measures. It will also legalize and make possible state surveillance of encrypted websites.
 
On Thursday, 26 May 2016, the Thai Netizen Network (TNN) leaked a report, ‘Ministry of Information and Communication Technology,’ which proposes an amendment to Article 20 of the Computer Crime Act. The amendment will provide the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) with the authority to access, block or delete encrypted content on websites.  
 
“The Minister may issue a regulation for Internet Service Providers to delete or restrain the dissemination of computer data, in accordance with evolving technology,” says the seventh page of the document, leaked by TNN. The document specifically names the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol, one of the most common encryption technologies, saying that to delete or stop the dissemination of data under this protocol, the Ministry requires special methods and mechanisms. 
 
SSL (https) is a secure online communication protocol which is widely used by social media websites such as Facebook, Google, Hotmail and Yahoo, to secure user privacy from access by a third party. SSL creates difficulties for governments who want to block websites. 
 
The planned revision of the bill will also criminalize all kinds of computer data which may breach other criminal laws, as well as content that may instigate public disturbance. The proposed amendments also oblige social media providers to comply with government censorship measures, reported TNN. 
 
“Any provider who either cooperates or conspires in, or permits a violation of Article 14 within their service provision, shall be punishable in the same way as a violator of Article 14,” reads Article 15 of the MICT’s draft amendment.
 
TNN observes that the proposed amendment is designed with a view to the Single Gateway, a project to reduce multiple internet gateways to a single one in order to increase the effectiveness of the state surveillance system. 
 
Earlier, the MICT issued Order No. 163/2014 appointing a working group with the mission to deal with ISPs and international internet gateways so as to block and monitor websites that use encryption technology.   
 
The National Legislative Assembly, the junta’s lawmakers, unanimously approved the amendments to the Computer Crime Act in April. The amendments are currently being reviewed by an NLA committee. The final draft is expected by the end of June. 
 
 
 
A picture from Thai Netizen Network’s campaign against Thai Single Gateway (source: Change.org)