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Online Censorship Report : Thailand

Online Censorship Report : Thailand
David
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Internet censorship in Thailand began preceding the 19th September 2006 military coup. The constitutions of Thailand from 2007, as well as the 1997 constitution, assured the freedom of speech; on the other hand, there would be instances when censorship would be implemented. Additionally, there are computer related statements that would require limitations.

The military junta who took over in 2006, after overpowering the elected government, appointed an official censor of the military coup. He took his cue from the overthrown government and blocked 17,793 websites as compared to the 800,000 sites that the previous administration had sworn to block. Additionally, the Royal Thai Police blocked another 32,500 sites.

Besides blocking the pornographic sites as they were meant to do, the Thai government blocked more sites including some social networks URLS. There was a persistent stream of violent protests and general unrest in the area because of the restraints put across to the people. The reasons for the restricts were as follows:

•    60% was pornography
•    14% for the sale of sex equipment
•    11% threat to the national security including criticism made based on the military, government or the king
•    4% copyright breach
•    2% gambling that was illegal
•    1% for other reasons

The censorship led to increased cybercrime laws and emergency decrees. As the time went by, the internet censorship continued to grow as its shift changed to focus on political issues, lese majeste and national security. There were more than 110,000 blocked websites in 2010. Additionally, the Cyber Security Operation Center was opened in December 2010. The opening of this center led to the restriction of another 22,599 URLs.  Questions were on the rise since these websites were being blocked secretly and were increasing significantly.

The penalty for certain computer crimes is twenty years of imprisonment in accordance with the Computer-Related Crimes Act. Login management systems are a requirement for every private and state company that prevents internet crimes this is because these organizations store and monitor data that is highly sensitive. A 500,000 baht fine is issued for the failure to comply with the requirements as stated. However, there was a grace period then of about a year that ended on 23rd August 2008.

In Thailand, some of the Facebook contents are blocked from public viewing. To begin with, any criticism of the royal family is strictly prohibited. The reason is to keep the talk of a new king on the minimal. Many high-profile users have been insinuating on such a transition and hence the ban. Journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall wrote a book on the Thai royal family in 2014 that was banned as a danger to national security.

In contradiction to the Computer Crime Act, the Thai Information and Communication Minister made certain comments on prosecuting websites based on their content that could have caused a lot of chaos. For this reason, the news was suppressed and inaccessible since it was against the law. His expression on his website preference was against the Law. The minister had been interviewed on the reason individual sites had been closed and responded that the Thai people could not bear details on the monarchy.

For compliance with the CRCA, the Internet Service Providers (ISP) had to ensure that specific websites had been blocked before they transmitted the services. To do this, the providers would independently acquire a court order that would allow the blocking of the particular site. Also, the ISPs had to keep a record of all the internet logs for up to 90 days. This record assisted in the arrest of a blogger who posted unfavorable posts. The arrests were made easier through the use of IP address tracking.

On the other hand, the CRCA has been used to suppress political dissension in Thailand by their site blockages that were considered crucial to the monarchy of Thailand. For instance, YouTube’s domain, as well as any of its separate URLs, was blocked for 7months in the country. This blocking continued until the website’s management agreed to block any videos that were supposed to be offensive to the Thai citizens or that were conflicting with the Thai regulation.

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) is a group that is pressuring the Thai government to look into particular issues that are connected to the censorship laws including the amendment of the 2007 constitution. It is also requesting the government to repeal to the CRCA.

After the 2014 coup d’etat, more restrictions were put in place by the powers of the National Council for Peace and Order. No evidence of internet filtering was found in the security area in November 2011 by the Open Net Initiative. In 2011, Thailand was on the list of countries under surveillance by the Reporters Without Borders.

In 2013, Thailand was considered as being “partly free,” and in 2014, it scored 62 points for internet freedom; with 0 being best and 100 being the worst. It was ranked at 52 out of 65 countries. This ranking was due to the several arrests of bloggers and other online users. In this year, Facebook access was blocked temporarily on 28th May. The junta tried to explain that it was a technical hitch but the parent of the mobile operators in Thai admitted that the restriction was deliberate.

Thailand may protest and cause a lot of unrest due to their restraints; however, the laws are not as strict as they are in China. It could help to conserve the ethical morals of its citizens, but if not embraced in a positive manner, it will lead to more problems than benefits to the people.

The nation is free from politically instigated crimes, cybercrime, pornographic exposure as well as a lot of propaganda about their leaders. Only time will tell what the authorities in Thai will opt for their people. A University was opened to find any loopholes in the laws that permitted such censorship leading to many petitions being filed with the nation’s National Human Resource Rights Commission (NHRC). These institutions include Midnight University, Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT), Circumvention software among others.