VPN installs surge 644% in Thailand after Pornhub ban

Caption: The large banner reads “Don’t hurt lonely people by making things inaccessible. #Reclaim Pornhub.”

Atlas VPN, a VPN provider, says that VPN installs surged by 644% in Thailand after the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) restricted access to Pornhub.

Using its in-house aggregated user data, it says that the number of installs “jumped” by 455% on 2 November and 644% on 3 November.

“Using a VPN helps overcome websites banned by Thailand’s government, which is why citizens hurried to download these services,” says Atlas VPN.

The VPN provider also referred to their VPN adoption research saying that before the surge of installs, “only 1 out of every 85 citizens use a VPN service in Thailand.” It also said that only “1.17% of Thailand’s population downloaded a VPN service in the first half of 2020."

Protesters gather against Pornhub ban

News spread all over the world that a group of Thai protesters gathered at the Government Complex against the ban against Pornhub on 3 November. Pakorn Porncheewangkun joined the protest saying his son also watches porn.

“My son also watches porn. Today he is still a good kid. I raise my child realistically,” said Pakorn.

Pakorn used to sell pornography 20 years ago when he was 14-15. Now he is self-employed and a fundraiser for the pro-democracy protests. He said the ban is a state restriction on personal rights to access media. It also shows that Thailand is a country of hypocrites.

“Why do sex toys get to be illegal but a lingam is an object of worship? It’s the country of hypocrisy in hypocrites. While you keep banning porn, you restrict everyone from easy access to media, but the number one income of this country comes from tourism. My question is foreigners who come Phuket, Nana, and Phatphong, do they come here to pray?” says Pakorn.

“We all know what the foreigners are here for. It is a major income source of the country. But on the other hand we restrict access and say that children should not watch it. I think it’s revolting. Stop being pretentious on the wrong subject.”

The protest also included the rare sight of a yellow shirt protester invited onto the protest stage after showing a picture of the late King Bhumibol. On stage, he asked the anti-censorship protesters to defend the monarchy while at the same time remove Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha from office.

The Anonymous Party under whose name the anti-ban protest took place is more associated with a group of pro-democracy protesters who called for monarchy reform. Pro-democracy protesters often question the political ideas of protesters who want reform of the monarchy in the reign of King Vajiralongkorn, but still show support for his father, the late King Bhumibol.

Concern over sexual abuse

Not everyone in the pro-democracy movement agrees with the anti-ban protesters. Some have raised a concern that on the Pornhub platform are videos uploaded without consent – some even include contents of actual sexual abuse.

Nuttaa Mahattana, a Thai democratic activist, said she is one of the victims who has a video of herself posted without her consent and she agrees with the government restricting access to the website.

“I’m one of the victims and one of cases where a legal team in the US is collecting evidence for a prosecution,” posted Nuttaa on Facebook on 2 November.

“One of the pieces of data which has to be collected is our attempt to report and the result of the report. It clearly shows that a victim cannot get any protection at all. All the criminals will get away with it and can repost any time”, said Nuttaa.

“At the time we make the report, the system does not even let us access the actual procedure of report. In the end, we must resort to email and we get no reply. This is what happens and it still remains this year. Today these people can still do it repeatedly with impunity.”

Her stance has stirred a debate among pro-democracy figures and protesters. Pakorn and some others said earlier that it is not fair to restrict whole websites as unethical contents could be deleted case-by-case. They also said that she should not confuse freedom of access with the fight against sexual abuse.

Nuttaa Mahattana also went to the protest site to raise concern over these issues. Meanwhile, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstrations stresses that sexual content should not violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, should not be within the scope of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) and online child sexual exploitation.

Digital Ministry blocks Pornhub again

On 2 November, internet users across Thailand reported that they could no longer access the website Pornhub without using VPN due to a restriction by the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.

Attempts to access Pornhub are diverted to a page which reads “The content has been suspended due to its illegal acts in accordance with the Computer-related Crime Act 2007 (B.E. 2550) and additional amendments and/or the Gambling Act 1935 (B.E. 2478) and other amendments.”

“We are responding to calls from parents who are concerned for their children and youth,” said Buddhipongse Punnakanta, the Minister. He rejected the claim that the ban was related to a video of a certain important person on the website.

The Manager Online said that the Court has ordered the blocking of 191 URLs from Pornhub upon request by the MDES. After the restriction, the hashtag #พลังเงี่ยน (power of lust) reached number one in Thailand’s trending. Some users who pay boasted that Pornhub Premium is still accessible to them.

According to Khaosod English, True Online, a Thai internet provider, admitted on Twitter that it had restricted access to Pornhub in May. It backed off not long after criticism started flooding in from internet users who paid for their service.

According to Thai Enquirer, Thailand ranked the 17th in terms of the website’s traffic in 2019. Bangkok was also the 10th among the top 20 cities. “Bangkok had a greater proportion of female visitors than anywhere in the world with 31 per cent of Pornhub visitors identifying as female,” says Thai Enquirer.

MDES said it has asked the Court to restrict or delete 5,162 URLs from social media in the August-October period: 3,750 on Facebook (2,522 closed), 315 on Twitter (32 closed), 1,031 on YouTube (1,019 closed), and 66 from other websites (38 closed).