Facebook awaits court orders

national May 17, 2017 01:00

By JIRAPAN BOONNOON,
WASAMON AUDJARINT
THE NATION

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Prime minister says ‘no authority’ to suspend social media operations after deadline lapses



THE MINISTRY of Digital Economy and Society staff has said it expects social media giant Facebook to block access to all 131 web addresses deemed illegal by authorities by the end of the month.

Facebook, meanwhile, was waiting for official court orders regarding the content in question.

Somsak Kaosuwan, deputy permanent secretary of the ministry, said yesterday that his agency expected that the URLs with content deemed illegal would be blocked this month. 

He said the ministry had sent 24 official court orders in English to Facebook – each one focusing on a single web address – in order to support its request for the company to block the URLs, adding that blockage could be done within a single day. 

The remaining 107 official court orders will be sent as soon as they are available, he said.

The ministry was waiting for official court orders from the Criminal Court.

Earlier, authorities gave Facebook until late yesterday morning to make the web pages inaccessible in Thailand while threatening legal action. However, none of the URLs were blocked after the deadline passed. 

The 131 web addresses in question were deemed to have content insulting to the monarchy, threatening national security, depicting pornography or being involved in fraud.

With more than 40 million users, Thailand is among the world’s most active countries on Facebook. 

Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general |of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), said yesterday that his agency had through local Internet service providers (ISPs) sent copies of 34 court orders to block URLs with illegal content.

In response, Facebook requested an official English version of the court orders before it proceeded with blocking the addresses in Thailand.

“Facebook is cooperating with Thailand,” Takorn told reporters yesterday after the 10am deadline passed.

Morragot Kulatumyotin, president of the Thai Internet Service Provider Association (TISPA), said yesterday that in response to the ISPs’ request to block URLs, Facebook asked for official court orders to prove that the content was considered illegal under Thai law. She said Facebook noted this was in line with international standards.

Facebook yesterday again referred to its stated policy in response to the authorities’ request.

“When governments believe that something on the Internet violates their laws, they may contact companies like Facebook and ask us to restrict access to that content. When we receive such a request, we review it to determine if it puts us on notice of unlawful content. “If we determine that it does, then we make it unavailable in the relevant country or territory and notify people who try to access it why it is restricted,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

He was responding to a question from The Nation as to whether Facebook |would block access as requested by the NBTC.

Under its policy, Facebook will comply with a country’s request to remove content if it receives a valid court order, AFP reported yesterday.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha admitted yesterday that his government did not have the authority to suspend Facebook’s operations in Thailand following its refusal to immediately block the URLs.

Prayut said the only thing the government could do was to seek court orders addressing specific URLs and have social media providers cooperate by blocking those web addresses.

“All we can do is ask for cooperation from foreign countries, the private sector and Internet service providers,” the premier said. “It’s because we have no better options.”

He told reporters yesterday that 6,000 web pages had been blocked recently by foreign social media platforms and search engines following government requests.

“We are now trying to work on the remaining ones and we must continue to work by asking for cooperation from foreign governments, the private sector and local website administrators,” he said.