Thailand starts new internet censorship campaign as SEA tighten grips on freedom of speech

Anisa Menur
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The campaign called for ISPs and IIG providers to block web pages or content that contain or promote illegal act, including the violation of the country’s lese majeste law

The Thailand government through the national telco regulator and the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (DE) have started new campaigns to curb web sites in the country, according to a report by Bangkok Post.

The institutions called for internet service providers (ISPs) and international internet gateway (IIG) providers to block web pages or content that contain or promote illegal act, including the violation of the country’s lese majeste law.

Lese majeste law is a regulation that forbids citizens from defaming, insulting, threatening the King and the member of the royal family. Thailand is believed to have one of the strictest lese majeste law in the world, with punishment ranging from three to 15 years of imprisonment.

The institutions also expect ISP to cooperate in removing “illicit” video streaming on Facebook and Youtube from their local network server.

“Despite good cooperation between the regulator and the ministry to prevent illicit content on websites over the last two years, the government hopes for more, and expects better result by next month,” said Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) on a meeting on Tuesday.

Under the new campaign, ISPs are to block web pages after receiving court orders or under their own monitoring effort. They will also have to report to government if they are unable to block a web page due to its being encrypted overseas, and the government will cooperate with embassies and foreign ministries if necessary.

The government also stated that it will discuss further on how to deal with illicit content in the form of online video or video streaming stored with ISP servers in country, particularly on their CDN or cache server.

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Southeast Asian countries have been seeing rising attempt of censorship on the internet in the past few years.

Recently, as political tension rises in some of its countries, curbing the spread of fake news have been the focus of censorship attempts.

Earlier this month, Vietnam Minister of Information and Communications Truong Minh Tuan spoke at a parliamentary committee meeting, stating that the government is encouraging Vietnamese tech companies to build local replacements for platforms such as Facebook and Google.

“The plan is to try and address the problem of how ‘fake pages’ with anti-government content grew uncontrollably on Facebook,” the minister said.

Malaysia has also stepped up its effort to curb the spread of fake news by proposing to take legal action against Whatsapp group admins who spread false information, while Indonesia has banned up to 11 web sites earlier this year for spreading hate speech and fake news.

The three countries’ effort have been receiving criticism, questioning the effectiveness and impartiality of the regulation.

In fact, Thailand’s new campaigns looks similar to Indonesia’s own Internet Positif (“Positive Internet”) campaigns, which made ISPs work with government to actively remove “illicit” content through censorship.

Image Credit: ruggieros / 123RF Stock Photo

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