Thai junta to tighten control over internet with new Computer Crime Act

The amended version of the controversial Computer Crime Act will give the Thai authorities a blank check to close down websites as the regime wishes, said an internet freedom advocate.   

Arthit Suriyawongkol, coordinator of Thai Netizen Network, a civil society organisation promoting internet freedom, reported that the amended draft of the 2007 Computer Crime Act will create a ‘single point of control’ for the government to close down websites.
 
The latest version of the amended draft will be sent to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) for consideration on 23 November 2016.
 
Article 20 of the new draft, the authorities will be able to block or delete online content while according to Article 20 of the draft the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) will establish a centre whose task is to block and delete onlinet, Arthit posted on his Facebook account.  
 
Under the 2007 Computer Crime Act, there are three steps required to block internet contents. The authorities will have to obtain court orders and then present court orders to the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to close or block websites.
 
“In practice it is like a ‘single gateway”, said Arthit, adding that it will allow the MDES to monopolise control over the internet.
 
Although under the new draft the court order to block or delete online content is still required, it is not clear if the court will carefully go through the content of each website listed in the authorities’ request in details.
 
“Sometimes 400-1,000 of URLs are listed on the MDES request to block websites or internet contents, but the court tend to approve the request within a day, is it possible that the court did not have enough time to look [at those online content]?” the Matter quoted Arthit as saying.
 
In addition to giving more authorities to the state to close online contents viewed as threats to national security or public morale, the highly controversial Article 14 of the act which has been widely used against watchdogs and political dissidents will still be retained in the new draft.
 
Article 14 sets a penalty of up to five years in prison for spreading false computer data, is broad enough to criminalise any dissenting or critical idea posted online on platforms as innocent as a Facebook comments.