Junta steps up censorship, surveillance on lèse majesté

After tasking the Army Cyber Centre with a lèse majesté hunt, the Thai government has claimed it has blocked about 900 URLs with content deemed insulting to the Thai Monarchy or threatening to national security.

On 2 October 2016, ACM Prajin Janthong, a deputy minister and caretaker Minister for Digital Economy and Society (DE), said that so far the centre has blocked 200 URLs with content allegedly violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, in accordance with the junta’s order.

He added that some 700 additional URLs have been closed down by court orders.

The deputy junta head then asked Thai people to be cautious in sharing online content deemed offensive to the revered Thai Monarchy.

Prajin also told media that he has received two letters from Facebook stating that it is ready to cooperate and consult with Thai authorities about URLs containing alleged lèse majesté content.

He said, however, that he would like to talk with Facebook staff in person.

According to the Nation, Facebook executive Alvin Sheng Hui Tan wrote to Prajin Juntong last Sunday saying that Facebook would take “appropriate” action concerning content identified by the government as illegal.

“Government entities can submit reports to Facebook about content that is believed to violate local law. If, after careful legal review, we find that the content is illegal under local law, we will restrict such content as appropriate,” Tan said in the letter.

Last week, Prajin told media that Line, a popular chat application, is willing to comply with the junta’s censorship measures, saying the Line headquarters in Japan has set up a steering committee to investigate reports of lèse majesté. The committee, if established, will search for lèse majesté content and users by co-ordinating with the Thai embassy in Japan, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, the Technology Crime Suppression Division and INTERPOL.

After the announcement however, Line denied that it monitors or blocks user content, saying that it is encrypted and cannot be viewed by Line.