New computer crime law to give govt more control over content

national April 28, 2016 01:00

By ASINA PORNWASIN
THE NATION

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THE National Legislative Assembly will today consider a new computer crime legislation, which critics said would lead to more government powers to control the country’s online content, including those on popular social media.



Paiboon Amonpinyokeat, a cyber-law specialist, said an amendment to Article 20 of the Computer Crimes Act will allow the government to remove content on blogs and websites as well as social media platforms such as Facebook and Line if they are deemed “inappropriate” or seen to negatively affect peace and order.
The Information and Communications Technology (ICT) minister is empowered to appoint a five-person committee to screen online content and seek a court order to remove content deemed as inappropriate. Two of the five committee members will be representatives from the private sector, according to the proposed amendment, said Paiboon, adding the legislation will give more power to the executive branch to judge online content.
In addition, the ICT minister is empowered to set up a committee under Article 17/1 to subject violators to penalties, including fines, if they are found to be guilty of hacking computer systems which is one of the major offences subject to an up to two-year imprisonment. 
According to Paiboon, computer-hacking cases have significant negative impacts on the economy and should be subjected to criminal prosecution instead of empowering a ministerial-level body to impose fines on wrongdoers. 
This will send a wrong signal since these cases should be handled by the courts, according to Paiboon, who said most other countries subject computer-hacking crimes to much stronger punishment but Thailand appears to be treating these crimes more lightly.
On social media, he said, the new legislation will authorise the ICT Ministry to issue ministerial regulations on social media content, and violators will face penalties. As a result, government control will feature prominently in the legislation, similar to the concept of a cybersecurity law.
Paiboon said the proposed legislation should be rewritten to avoid curbing the public right to freedom of expression on social media or else users will turn to overseas hosts of Internet providers to circumvent the regulatory measures on online content. In addition, the policy to promote the digital economy will be negatively affected.
Poomjit Sirawongprasert, president of the Thai Hosting Service Providers Club, said the government should have two separate legislations, one on offences concerning the computer systems such as hacking, and another on content.
“Offences concerning online contents should be covered by a new law because they are not directly related to online service providers such as mobile operator, hosting service provider, ISP, data centre service providers or Internet of Things,” Poomjit said
Poomjit also shared the opinion that there is excessive executive power in the legislation concerning its authority to impose fines on big offences such as hacking.
Morragot Kulatumyotin, managing director of Internet Thailand Public Company, said the new legislation will expand the government’s powers to regulate more online activities beyond traditional computer crimes such as hacking, data theft, and forgery.

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