Thailand Seeks to Block Facebook Pages That Insult Monarchy

Updated on
  • Telecoms regulator applies to block access to 131 pages
  • Government accuses pages of violating lese-majeste laws

Thailand’s military government sought court orders to block access to 131 Facebook Inc. pages deemed illegal for insulting the monarchy or containing pornographic material.

Thai authorities are working with Facebook to resolve the matter, Takorn Tantasith, secretary general of the National Broadcasting & Telecommunications Commission, told reporters in Bangkok. The government had set a 10 a.m. deadline on Tuesday for the Thai Internet Service Provider Association to remove Facebook posts and links to web pages.

Facebook on Tuesday didn’t comment directly on the Thai situation but said it reviews government requests to restrict content and will comply if it determines unlawful content is involved.

Thailand has some of the world’s toughest lese-majeste laws, which make it illegal to defame, insult or threaten the king, queen, heir apparent or regent. Offenders can get as many as 15 years in jail for sharing a story on Facebook or hitting “like” on a post. An amended Computer Crime Act, due to take effect May 24, bars content that’s fake or contrary to public order or morality. 

Critics say the laws hurt free speech and run the risk of stifling innovation in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. Thailand slid six places to 142 out of 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.

Facebook is blocked or banned in several countries, notably China, which restricts online speech to preserve stability. The world’s largest social network complies with local regulations in the countries in which it operates, though it’s clashed with officials and regulators over data requirements and content curbs.

Thailand has about 20 million Facebook users, according to estimates by research company eMarketer, and Facebook has previously said the country is among key growth areas globally.

Thailand has been run by a military administration since a coup almost three years ago. A new constitution was promulgated in April, setting the stage for a potential return to some form of representative democracy next year.

(Updates with Facebook’s comment in third paragraph.)
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