Thailand has now coerced Facebook into blocking access to a Group that criticized the country's king. The Big Tech social media giant has been heavily criticised by the users for censoring criticism and crushing dissent against the government. Facebook has also been threatened with a lawsuit for failing to remove content that was “defaming” the monarchy.
“Access to this group has been restricted within Thailand pursuant to a legal request from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society,” read a message in the Group.
The Group that was blocked by Facebook amassed more than a million members and was named as the “Royalist Marketplace.” It was created by a self-exiled academic and critic of the country, Pavin Chachavalpongpun. Thailand is also seeing youth-led protests organized with an aim to demand reforms of the monarchy.
Pavin remarked that the government pressurised the social media giant and made it inaccessible to the citizens living in Thailand. That said, creative use of the internet and a VPN will always allow users to avoid such geopolitical restrictions on the internet.
“By doing this, Facebook is cooperating with the authoritarian regime to obstruct democracy and cultivating authoritarianism in Thailand,” said Pavin. The country's government has already filed a cybercrime complaint against him for creating the “Royalist Marketplace” group on Facebook.
The social media company also stated that it simply restricts posts when they tend to violate the laws of the country. Thailand, as a matter of fact, strictly prohibits defaming the king. Violators can be penalized or imprisoned up to 15 years.
It is worth noting that Thailand's digital minister was initially disgruntled with Facebook, as the social media company did not promptly comply with takedowns. What's more, Facebook was also served with a notice to either comply with court orders in 15 days or to be booked under the Computer Crime act and get fined up to $6,367.40 plus $159.18 each day until all the orders are observed. Facebook could easily afford the fine but instead chose to censor the Group.
“The deadline is almost up and Facebook understands the context of Thai society, so they cooperate,” said the ministry spokesman, Putchapong Nodthaisong, as reported by Reuters.