Thailand brushes off Facebook threat, say company must comply with its laws

Self-exiled academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun posted this image of himself added to a photo showing a ‘Royalist Marketplace’ banner displayed at a recent anti-government protest. Image: Pavin Chachavalpongpun / Facebook
Self-exiled academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun posted this image of himself added to a photo showing a ‘Royalist Marketplace’ banner displayed at a recent anti-government protest. Image: Pavin Chachavalpongpun / Facebook

Thailand’s government isn’t backing down in the face of legal threats from one of the world’s largest technology companies.

One day after Facebook said it would sue the Thai government over censorship, Puttipong Punnakanta of the Digital Economy and Society Ministry said this morning they were unconcerned with the threat as officials were merely upholding the law by demanding it remove or block a group critical of the monarchy.

“I don’t see where and how Facebook is going to sue us,” he said, adding that the government treats all online platforms the same under the law.

The ministry he heads, which polices internet content, had threatened to initiate criminal proceedings against the California-based company for not compiling with its original order to remove the Royalist Marketplace, a private group started by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an academic and monarchy critic living in exile in Japan.

“When they get a court order, they have to delete or block [offending content] within 15 days” or face prosecution under the Computer Crime Act, Puttipong said. He noted that the penalty for violating the law was a THB200,000 fine plus THB5,000 per day the demand went unmet. 

Facing such a threat, Facebook made the group inaccessible from Thailand but said it would sue Thailand for violating international legal commitments to free expression.

The Royalist Marketplace had accrued more than 1 million members before Facebook moved against it on Tuesday. A duplicate group set up in response has already added 700,000 members.

Paiboon Amornpinyokiet, a computer law expert, told reporters Facebook is unlikely to prevail because of Thailand’s sovereignty under the U.N. Cybercrime Convention. Any legal proceedings initiated by Facebook would be decided in a Thai court.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha yesterday responded to Facebook’s threat by saying the company must respect Thailand’s laws.

As of Monday, Minister Puttipong said that a Facebook page set up to field complaints against content on the platform had yielded 434 reports this month.

Related

Facebook to sue Thai government over demand to block anti-monarchy group

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