A group of local internet service providers (ISPs) has emailed an official request to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking the company to block content on its web pages in Thailand that breaks the country’s strict lese majeste laws, as ordered by the Criminal Court.
The group, constituting 95% of internet traffic in Thailand, consists of 19 internet service providers as well as international internet gateway (IIG) companies that belong to the Thai Internet Service Provider Association (Tispa).
The group sent the email on Wednesday to both Mr Zuckerberg and the managing director of Facebook Thailand, said Tispa president Morragot Kulatumyotin.
Some of the member companies are Advanced Wireless Network, DTAC TriNet, CS LoxInfo, CAT Telecom, TOT Plc, Symphony Communication, United Information Highway, Internet Thailand, KSC Commercial Internet and Jasmine Internet.
The court has ordered some 6,900 web pages or websites to be shut down since 2015.
But Ms Morragot said there are still around 600 pages, mostly on Facebook, that local ISPs cannot block because they are encrypted, with the host servers located abroad.
She said the email lists the URLs of the Facebook pages and other pages that are deemed illegal in Thailand.
“We need cooperation from Facebook, the biggest social network in Thailand,” said Ms Morragot.
There are 41 million Facebook users in Thailand. Facebook is also planning to set up a date centre in the country to boost the capacity of its network connectivity.
Tispa members met to discuss ways of tackling illicit content Thursday along with representatives of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and the Digital Economy and Society (DE) Ministry, as well figures from the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD).
The talks came after the NBTC last week ordered all ISPs and IIG to block illicit web pages and content deemed illegal by the court within the next seven days, or risk having their licences revoked.
Any ISP that fails to comply with the order will face penalties ranging from a fine to losing their operating licence or facing criminal charges. The order relates only to content the court has previously declared illegal. All of the content in question either contains or promotes breaches of Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, known as the lese majeste law.
The seven-day deadline has already passed but the regulator seems to be observing a grace period of sorts while the parties work together to resolve the issue.
The telecom regulator has also asked local ISPs to cooperate in removing video-streaming content on Facebook and YouTube from their local network servers, or content delivery network (CDN), if it contains illicit material.
The NBTC said it will work with the DE Ministry and the TCSD to perform compliance checks.
Transgressions could result in administrative sanctions, criminal charges, fines or imprisonment as mapped out in legislation including the Telecom Business Act or Computer Crime Act, officials said.
Ms Morragot said Tispa members are expecting a “positive response” from Mr Zuckerberg.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said he believed the 600 Facebook pages would be blocked soon.
“Security officials and the NBTC will follow up on the progress and take further action against any of the illegal websites,” he said.
“The public can rest assured,” he added. “We just have to take action against the wrongdoers. The government doesn’t intend to block online social networks in any way.”
Meanwhile, DE deputy permanent secretary Somsak Khaosuwan warned netizens who use Facebook and other sites last month not to “follow” or correspond with three men who are well-known for their anti-regime views, or risk facing up to 15 years in jail.
The three are Thammasat University historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Kyoto University associate professor Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Scottish online journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall.
All three are listed as wanted for violations of Section 112. They remain very active online, often writing critically about the government and the ruling junta.
The news comes at a time when Facebook is stepping up its self-censorship measures. It said Thursday it is hiring an extra 3,000 staff to remove violent content such as murders or suicides broadcast on its video platform.
“If we’re going to build a safe community, we need to respond quickly,” Mr Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page.
Mr Zuckerberg’s announcement came a week after a 20-year-old Thai man broadcast a live video showing him killing his baby daughter before he took his own life.
One week earlier, a US man dubbed the “Facebook Killer” shot himself to death after a three-day manhunt.
The murder and video sparked outrage across the world and sparked calls for renewed scrutiny of the videos being posted on social media.
Facebook removed the footage hours after the attack.
“We’re working to make these videos easier to report so we can take the right action sooner — whether that’s responding quickly when someone needs help or taking a post down,” Mr Zuckerberg said.
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