The Thai digital minister on Wednesday has vowed not to relent on a crackdown on social media content which the country deemed to being illegal and said it was unlikely social media giant Facebook would follow through on plans to challenge an order to block access to a group critical of the Thai monarchy.
There is a massive group on the platform with more than 1 million members, the “Royalist Marketplace” which was blocked within Thailand on Monday after the digital ministry threatened legal action against Facebook under the country’s Computer Crime Act.
Facebook in order to save itself from total wrath of the Thai government decided to comply with this threat but plans to handle the matter legally.
The tension came due to an almost daily youth-led protests against the government of a former junta chief during which some demonstrators have made unprecedented calls for reforms of the monarchy and that is an illegal practice in the country.
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Then there was a Facebook group created by one Pavin Chachavalpongpun who is a self-exiled academic and prominent critic of the monarchy was able to amass a huge 700,000 member within just 2 days of creating the group.
“If they start a new group or do anything illegal again, we’ll need to act again. We’ll keep doing this no matter how many times it takes,” digital minister Puttipong Punnakanta said.
The Digital minister further said he was happy with Facebook’s compliance with a deadline to act on court orders which were attached to government request to block content locally. He further warned the social media’s Thailand office of possible cybercrime charges of the orders were not observed.
“This time Facebook complied in blocking everything we flagged, which is why I don’t think Facebook will pursue legal action,” Puttipong said.
“We’re not bullies. We use Thai laws to protect Thai cyber sovereignty.”
With that said, the fact that Facebook could be subjected to threats and be forced to take action against some group of people who are trying to have their voices heard in their country showed how powerful censorship can be on people as well as its effects on the freedom of speech according to Rasha Abdul-Rahim or rights group Amnesty International.
“It’s welcome that Facebook is now planning legal action to challenge the government’s censorship demands, but the harm has already been done,” she said.
“The company should not have given in to the demands in the first place.”