Puttipong Punnakanta, Minister of the Digital Economy and Society (DES), says that Facebook has violated the Thai Computer Crime Act for blocking only 20 per cent of all illegal content whose removal has been requested by the authorities.
Facebook login page on a smartphone (Source: pexels.com)
The Minister said Facebook can be charged with not complying with orders from the Thai authorities, referring to Section 27 of the Act. Facebook faces penalties of up to 200,000 baht and an additional 5,000 baht per day until the orders are observed.
Puttipong tweeted that in 2020, Facebook has blocked only 1,316 out of 4,767 URLs named in court orders while YouTube has blocked 1,507 out of 1,616.
“The [DES] Ministry is prepared to proceed against any platform abroad that provides services to the Thai people. Anyone doing business in Thailand must learn to respect Thai law and is responsible for the Thai people’s feelings and what Thais hold dear,” said Puttipong.
Facebook is facing pressure from the Thai authorities and conservatives alike because of content about the monarchy. Recently its auto-translation feature mistranslated a live-streaming of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s birthday ceremony last week. Facebook has apologized and temporarily disabled the feature.
On 1 August, Sermsuk Kasitipradit, a well-known news reporter, posted a court order on his Facebook account. Issued in June, the order requested the closure of 24 URLs in accordance with an MDES request, including the Royalist Marketplace Facebook page.
This page, established by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic in exile, mainly criticizes the Thai monarchy and politics. Since it started on 16 April 2020, more than 830,000 Facebook users have joined the group. Royalist Marketplace banners have appeared in many recent protests countrywide.
As of 4 August, the page is still accessible.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that at least 25 group members are being hunted.
In the age of King Vajiralongkorn and the internet, the government knows too well that they cannot prosecute all critics. The Thai Security Plan for 2019-2022 admitted that the new generation’s bond to the monarchy has weakened.
In November 2018, BBC Thai reported that Facebook had taken down more than 735 lèse-majesté posts since 2016 at the request of the Thai government.