BANGKOK: Facebook said on Tuesday (Aug 25) it was planning to legally challenge the Thai government after being “compelled” to block access within Thailand to a group with 1 million members that discusses the country’s king.
The social media giant late on Monday blocked access to the “Royalist Marketplace” group after the Thai government threatened legal action over failure to take down content deemed defamatory to the monarchy.
“Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.
“We work to protect and defend the rights of all internet users and are preparing to legally challenge this request.”
The statement did not give details on the legal challenge.
The “Royalist Marketplace” group was created in April by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a self-exiled academic and critic of the monarchy.
On Monday night, the group’s page brought up a message: “Access to this group has been restricted within Thailand pursuant to a legal request from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.”
Pavin, who lives in Japan, said Facebook had bowed to the military-dominated government’s pressure.
“Our group is part of a democratisation process, it is a space for freedom of expression,” Pavin told Reuters.
“By doing this, Facebook is cooperating with the authoritarian regime to obstruct democracy and cultivating authoritarianism in Thailand.”
Thailand has strict lese majeste laws that forbid defaming the king, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison.
Earlier this month, Thailand’s digital minister accused Facebook of not complying with requests to restrict content, including insults to the monarchy.
On Aug 10, he gave Facebook 15 days to comply with court takedown orders or face charges under the local Computer Crime Act, which carries a fine of up to 200,000 baht (US$6,367.40) and an additional 5,000 baht (US$159.18) per day until each order is observed.
“The deadline is almost up and Facebook understands the context of Thai society, so they cooperate,” ministry spokesman Putchapong Nodthaisong told Reuters.
The ministry last week filed a separate cybercrime complaint against Pavin for creating the group.