In the age of social networks, the junta risks alienating large sections of the community if it blocks popular platforms like Facebook and Twitter out of fear over what people say.
People now have the power to instantly connect and communicate with one another around the globe. To block people from expressing an idea on social media would not be smart.
There are many social network platforms but in Thailand the most popular one is Facebook, with over 26 million users, research shows.
If the junta blocks access to Facebook, people would not only lose faith in its leader but would simply try and connect with another social network site. They can jump from one social network to another quickly across all types of devices anywhere, anytime.
In a democratic country, every person has the legal right to communicate. If there are some groups of people using the social network inappropriately to convey false information, to spread hate speech and so on, and the country’s leader decides to block all Thais from accessing the social network, it would not be fair on the great bulk of users.
There are cases in many countries where the country’s leader identified social networks as the enemy.
The New York Times, for example, noted that Twitter roared in Turkey after an effort to block it. The Turkish government’s attempt to block the site appeared to backfire, fomenting a loud and raucous backlash, with the hashtags #TwitterisblockedinTurkey, #occupytwitter, #turkeyblockedtwitter, and #dictatorerdogan quickly trending globally.
According to Twitturk, which records the statistics of Turkey’s roughly 12 million Twitter users, more than half a million tweets were posted in just 10 hours, despite the ban.
According to the non-profit Mother Jones Investigative Fund, China blocked Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in 2009. Iran has blocked Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube on and off since they were banned in 2009 following Iran’s contentious presidential election.
In Vietnam over the past couple of years, there have been widespread reports of Facebook being blocked. And in September 2013, Vietnam passed a law prohibiting citizens from posting anti-government content on the social network. Facebook did not comment.
Instead of regarding the social network as the enemy, leaders should play with the big data generated from it and moved over the network ingeniously.
They should follow the lead of the business world on how to use the social network to engage with people, deal with a crisis, and satisfy people.
It’s also worth noting that by not blocking the social network, the junta could easily catch people
who post messages that break National Council for Peace and Order laws because they leave a digital footprint.