Internet censorship in Thailand | Wikipedia audio article


Most Internet censorship in Thailand prior
to the September 2006 military coup d’état was focused on blocking pornographic websites. The following years have seen a constant stream
of sometimes violent protests, regional unrest, emergency decrees, a new cybercrimes law,
and an updated Internal Security Act. Year by year Internet censorship has grown,
with its focus shifting to lèse majesté, national security, and political issues. By 2010, estimates put the number of websites
blocked at over 110,000. In December 2011, a dedicated government operation,
the Cyber Security Operation Center, was opened. Between its opening and March 2014, the Center
told ISPs to block 22,599 URLs.The subsequent 2014 Thai coup d’état has led to further
restrictions on Internet content in the country, using the powers of the coup’s National Council
for Peace and Order.Internet filtering in Thailand was classified as selective in the
social, political, and Internet tools areas, and no evidence of filtering was found in
the conflict/security area by the OpenNet Initiative in November 2011. Thailand is on Reporters Without Borders list
of countries under surveillance in 2011.Freedom House, in 2014 awarded Thailand an overall
score of 62 (“not free”) (0=best, 100=worst) for Internet freedom, citing substantial political
censorship and the arrests of bloggers and other online users, ranking it 52 of 65 countries. In 2013 Thailand had been rated as “partly
free”.==History==
Internet censorship is conducted by the Royal Thai Police, the Communications Authority
of Thailand, and the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT).Prior
to the September 2006 military coup d’état, 34,411 web sites were blocked by all three
government agencies. The cited reasons were as follows:
60% pornography, 14% sale of sex equipment,
11% threats to national security, which includes criticisms of the king, government or military,
8% illegal products and services, 4% copyright infringement,
2% illegal gambling, and 1% other.Although the great majority of censored
sites were pornographic, the list also includes anonymous proxy servers which circumvent web-blocking
and provide access to Internet gambling sites. Pornography and gambling are specifically
illegal in Thailand. On 19 September 2006, the Thai military staged
a bloodless coup d’état against the government of elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The fifth official order signed by coup leader
General Sonthi Boonyaratglin on 20 September, the first day following the coup, was to enforce
web censorship and appoint Dr. Sitthichai Pokaiudom, “The Official Censor of the Military
Coup”, as minister to head MICT.In October 2006, MICT blocked 2,475 websites by “request”;
by 11 January 2007, this number had risen to 13,435 websites, a jump of more than 500%. This brought the total number of websites
blocked to more than 45,000. All websites are blocked in secret and the
criteria for censorship has never been made public by government. However, the MICT blocklist must be made available
to ISPs to block. With the enactment of a new cybercrimes law
in June 2007 (Act on Computer Crime B.E. 2550), Thailand became one of the only countries
in Asia to require its government to obtain court authorization to block Internet content
(section 20). Illegal activities under the Thai cybercrimes
law include inputting obscene data, forged or false data likely to cause injury to another
person, the public, or national security; and data which constitutes a criminal offense
relating to national security or terrorism (section 14). Criminal liability is extended to ISPs that
intentionally support or consent to these illegal activities (section 15). The law creates civil and criminal liability
for individuals who publicly post photographs of others that are “likely to” impair their
reputation or expose them to shame, public hatred, or contempt (section 16). Ongoing political turmoil led Prime Minister
Samak Sundaravej to declare a state of emergency on 2 September 2008. Upon his declaration, the Ministry of Information
and Communications Technology ordered ISPs to immediately shut down around 400 websites
and block 1,200 more, all alleged to have disturbed the social order or endangered national
security.ICT Minister Mun Patanotai announced on 29 October 2008, plans to introduce an
internet gateway system costing up to 500 million baht to block sites considered to
promote lèse majesté materials. The Minister said the system could also be
used to block other websites considered inappropriate, such as those of terrorist groups or selling
pornography, but the ministry will focus first on websites with content deemed insulting
to the Thai monarchy.A state of emergency was imposed on 7 April and lifted on 22 December
2010, but the Internal Security Act (ISA), which provides Thailand’s leaders with broad
powers unrestricted by judicial procedure, remains in place.URLs blocked by court order:
It is estimated that tens of thousands of additional URLs are blocked without court
orders through informal requests or under the Emergency Decree on Public Administration
in Emergency Situations. Reasons for blocking:
In late 2011, the government announced the creation of the Cyber Security Operations
Center (CSOC). CSOC pro-actively monitors websites and social
media, and provides ISPs with a rapidly updated blocklist, including postings on Twitter and
Facebook. There is no judicial review of the CSOC blocklist.Articles
18(2) and 18(3) of the 2017 Computer Crime Act (CCA) would allow user-related data and
traffic data to be accessed by authorities without a court order under probable cause
to assist with investigations related to an offense under the CCA or other laws. And Article 18(7) would allow authorities
with a court order to compel service providers in assisting with the decryption of encoded
data, undermining the use of encryption tools as a protection of user privacy.==Methods==MICT blocks indirectly by informally “requesting”
the blocking of websites by Thailand’s 54 commercial and non-profit Internet service
providers (ISPs). Although ISPs are not legally required to
accede to these “requests”, MICT Permanent Secretary Kraisorn Pornsuthee wrote in 2006
that ISPs who fail to comply will be punitively sanctioned by government in the form of bandwidth
restriction or even loss of their operating license. This is a powerful compulsion to comply. Websites are blocked by Uniform Resource Locator
(URL) and/or IP address. However, only about 20% of blocked sites are
identified by IP address; the remaining 80% are unable to be identified at a specific
physical location. If these sites could be identified as being
located in Thailand, legal action could be taken against their operators. Thus, lack of IP address is a major oversight. Several technologies are employed to censor
the Internet such as caching, blacklisting domain name or IP address, or simply redirection
to a government homepage. Blacklisting the website is beneficial for
this kind of web censorship as the webmasters would be unaware that their websites are being
blocked. This measure is said to be used to make unpleasant
websites appear unavailable.Many censored web sites previously redirected the user to
a site hosted by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) which
states that the requested destination could not be displayed due to improper content. Censorship of the Internet in Thailand is
currently for website access only. Unlike China’s “Great Firewall”, which censors
all Internet traffic including chat conversation via Instant Messaging, Thai Internet users
are still able to interact with other users without being censored. However, current policy is to use a system
of transparent proxies so that the user receives system, server, TCP and browser error messages
when trying to access blocked sites leading the user to believe that the failure is caused
in the Internet itself. Search engine giants, Google and Yahoo!, were
approached to investigate the potential capability for blocking access to their cached web pages
in Thailand, a common technique used to circumvent blocking. The search engines were also asked about keyword
search blocking which is used effectively in China to censor the Internet. Google, at least, has made public a statement
that it has no intention of blocking any sites to users in Thailand.New OONI data reveals
the blocking of 13 websites in Thailand across 6 different ISPs, between 6th November 2016
and 27th February 2017. Thai ISPs appear to primarily be implementing
censorship through DNS hijacking and through the use of middle boxes (HTTP transparent
proxies) which serve block pages.==Examples of websites blocked=====19 September Network against Coup d’Etat
===A trend is increased censorship of anti-coup
websites such as 19 September Network against Coup d’Etat, which has been blocked six times
as of February 2007, with the government refusing to acknowledge responsibility for the blocking.===Southern insurgency===
Most sites concerning the violent political situation in Thailand’s Muslim south are blocked,
specifically those in support of the Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO), a banned
group which works for a separate Muslim state, including PULO’s appeals to the United Nations
for redress.===External news sites===
Some web pages from BBC One, BBC Two, CNN, Yahoo! News, the Post-Intelligencer newspaper (Seattle,
USA), and The Age newspaper (Melbourne, Australia) dealing with Thai political content are blocked. More recently, all international coverage
of Thaksin-in-exile has been blocked, including interviews with the deposed PM.===Webboards and discussion forums===
Internet webboards and discussion forums such as Midnight University, Prachatai.com and
Pantip.com have all been blocked, making reasonable political discussion very difficult. Prachatai and Pantip have chosen to self-censor,
closely monitoring each discussion, in order to remain unblocked.===Video sharing sites===
Video sharing sites such as Camfrog have recently been blocked on the grounds that people were
“behaving indecently” on webcams. The block was later reversed when it was discovered
that Camfrog provided a principal means of communication for the handicapped, elderly
and shut-ins. Other video sharing sites such as Metacafe
remain blocked however. The entire video upload website, YouTube,
has been blocked several times, including a complete ban between 4 April and 31 August
2007 due to a video which was considered to be offensive to the monarchy. YouTube’s parent company, Google, was reported
to have agreed to assist MICT in blocking individual videos, thus making the remainder
legal to display in Thailand. The YouTube site block persisted for nearly
five months, despite the fact that the video challenged by MICT was voluntarily deleted
by the user who posted it.===Websites containing lèse majesté content
===The criminal code states that whoever defames,
insults or threatens the king, queen, the heir-apparent, or the regent, shall be jailed
for three to 15 years, but the statute is broadly interpreted to apply to any mention
of the institution of royalty that is less than flattering. On 29 April 2010, Wipas Raksakulthai was arrested
following a post to his Facebook account allegedly insulting King Bhumibol. The arrest was reportedly the first lèse
majesté charge against a Thai Facebook user. In response, Amnesty International named Wipas
Thailand’s first prisoner of conscience in nearly three decades.According to the Associated
Press, the Computer Crime Act has contributed to a sharp increase in the number of lèse
majesté cases tried each year in Thailand. While between 1990 and 2005, roughly five
cases were tried in Thai courts each year, since that time about 400 cases have come
to trial—a 1,500 percent increase.===Websites about the book The King Never
Smiles===Although the independent biography of Thailand’s
King Bhumibhol Adulyadej, The King Never Smiles by Paul Handley was published in July 2006,
websites concerning the book had been blocked as far back as November 2005. As no advance reading copies or excerpts were
made available, these sites were censored based on the book’s title alone. All sites with links to sales of the book
are still blocked, including Yale University Press, Amazon, Amazon UK, and many others.===Wikipedia articles===
Accessing the Wikipedia article on Bhumibol Adulyadej from Thailand on 10 October 2008,
led to a w3.mict.go.th announcement: “Under Construction The site you are trying to view
does not currently have a default page. It may be in the process of being upgraded
and configured.” The link is now redirected to:The page was
prohibited because of the court order. It could have an effect on or be against the
security of the Kingdom, public order or good morals. Thai: ท่านไม่สามารถเข้าชม
web page ที่ต้องการ เนืองจาก มีคำสั่งศาลให้ปิดกั้น
หรือ มีลักษณะเข้าข่ายที่อาจกระทบต่อความมั่นคงแห่งราชอาณาจักร หรืออาจขัดต่อความสงบเรียบร้อยหรือศีลธรรมอันดีของประชาชน The blocking of the King of Thailand’s Wikipedia
page may be due to content regarding the king’s succession that the Thai Government views
unappealing or illegal under its lèse majesté laws. The fake error message seen in Thailand when
attempting to view the king’s Wikipedia page can be seen on YouTube. The Thai baht article had all images removed.===WikiLeaks===
On 28 June 2010, access to wikileaks.org was blocked in Thailand. However the website today is currently accessible.===Wayback Machine Internet archive===
Some pages from the Wayback Machine, an Archive.org project which as of 2011 stores snapshots
of over 150 billion web pages, are being blocked by MICT.===Aftermath of 2014 coup d’etat===Following the 2014 Thai coup d’état, the
National Council for Peace and Order, ruling military junta, blocked The Daily Mail’s website
after the site posted a video of the country’s crown prince and his wife partying, in violation
of the lèse majesté laws which prohibit publishing material offensive to the Thai
royal family. However, the website is currently accessible
today. The junta, through MICT, also instructed Internet
providers in Thailand to block access to Facebook temporarily on 28 May 2014. Despite claims of technical issues by the
junta, the permanent secretary of MICT and Telenor, parent of Thai mobile phone operator
dtac, later admitted that the blocks were done deliberately==
Opposition to Internet censorship==Interference in communications, including
the Internet, was specifically prohibited by Section 37 and free speech protected by
Section 39 of the 1997 “People’s” Constitution. However, following the pattern of past coups,
the military’s first action was to scrap the constitution and begin drafting a new one. Nevertheless, MICT commissioned the law faculty
of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University to find laws or loopholes which permit such
censorship, and several other organizations have filed petitions with Thailand’s National
Human Rights Commission (NHRC).===Midnight University===
Midnight University has filed petitions simultaneously with the NHRC and Thailand’s Administrative
Court. As the court and the Council of State can
find no laws which permit Internet censorship, Midnight University has been granted a restraining
order against further blocking, pending resolution of its legal case. This makes Midnight University the only legally-protected
website in Thailand.===Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
===Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
filed a petition against censorship before the NHRC on 15 November 2006. FACT’s petition is still open for signatures
and is actively seeking international support. Though NHRC has no enforcement capability
and is therefore rarely able to extract evidence from government bodies, on 26 January 2007
MICT agreed to cooperate with the NHRC. On 9 February 2007, FACT filed an official
information request with MICT under the Official Information Act of 1997. The request contains 20 questions and is signed
by 257 individuals supported by 57 international civil liberties and human rights groups. The MICT refused to reply citing grounds of
“national security” and “interference with law enforcement”; its secret blocklist,
criteria used for censorship and specific procedures it uses remain private. On 23 March 2007, FACT filed a complaint requiring
an investigation within 60 days by the Official Information Commission in the prime minister’s
office. FACT stated that, should the complaint fail,
it would seek a restraining order against further censorship through Thailand’s legal
system.===Circumvention software===
Software applications for circumventing web-blocking are readily available. Tor is in use through software including XeroBank
Browser (formerly Torpark) and Vidalia, and a number of other proxied solutions including
Proxify, Six-Four, phproxy are also used. Freenet is another popular solution. Available for free download from the Internet,
these packages are also published on disk by FACT. The MICT minister has said in an interview
in the Bangkok Post that he has not blocked these methods because “using proxies to access
illegal sites are illegal, whereas using proxies to access legal sites is legal.”==
Current developments==In 2016 the Foreign Correspondents Club of
Thailand hosted a panel discussion entitled Dealing with Computer Crime, summarizing:==See also==
Censorship in Thailand Internet in Thailand

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *