THE SOCIAL Media Reform Subcommittee aims to secure cooperation from the three largest social media platforms – Google’s YouTube, Facebook, and Line – to take down “inappropriate content”.
The subcommittee is operating in conjunction with the Mass Media Reform Committee, and the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA).
Currently, authorities need a court’s permission to force social media to take out such content.
The government has sought cooperation from social-network operators to block accessibility in Thailand to Facebook pages, Line groups and YouTube videos that have inappropriate content, especially those deemed as violating lese majeste restrictions and national security.
“In the past, we have not received strong cooperation from service providers,” said Pol Maj-General Pisit Pao-in, the first vice president of Mass Media Reform Committee, and president of the Social Media Reform Subcommittee, National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA).
The Social Media Reform Subcommittee has had three meetings with Google’ executives. The first was held unofficially in December 2015, while the second and third were official meetings in January. As a result, the government received good cooperation from Google to reduce process and time to take down “inappropriate [video] content” from YouTube.
“In the past, we found only less than 10 per cent of ‘inappropriate content’ was being taken down and each content took around six months or up to a year [for this to be achieved]. We asked Google with a court order for cooperation to take down ‘inappropriate content’, seeking a shorter period of time. Currently, during these two months, we found that around 30 per cent of ‘inappropriate content’ were taken down, said Pol Maj-General Pisit.
He said if the government asked them to take down content, then the authorities would process the investigation without asking service providers for users’ information.
“We can use a mutual legal assistance treaty [MLAT], an agreement between two or more countries, to gather and exchange information in an effort to enforce public laws or criminal laws,” said Pisit.
In exchange, the government was considering review of the Computer Crime Act, especially Article 15. It says service providers must take the same responsibility as users who post illegal content on social media.
As president of the Social Media Reform Subcommittee, NRSA, Pisit aims to get cooperation from the three main social media service providers within three months, by the end of March.
“We have not yet contacted Facebook and Line, but it is on the agenda. We will negotiate with Facebook and Line as we have done with Google. We will deal with them for mutual benefit, our national benefit and their business benefits. We do not ask them to break their policies, we just ask for their cooperation on taking down ‘inappropriate content’ that violated Thai law, [content] that might not be against international laws,” said Pisit.
He insisted the government would not censor online content but it would regulate online content.
“Currently, online content can be a problem because it is easy to create, easy to separate, and easy to conceal its identity. Online content on Facebook is the one of most concern, followed by YouTube and Line. Online content on YouTube is better since we receive good cooperation from Google,” said Pisit.
To ask for cooperation from three giant platform service providers, Google [ YouTube], Facebook, and Line is among the four missions of Social Media Reform. The other three are: to revise the Computer Crime Act and the National Security Bill; to adjust the organisation and function of the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) to be more proactive in enforcing the Computer Crime Act; and to develop digital literacy in Thai society.
However, Line Thailand has released a statement – “Censorship demand for Line contents” – that Line Thailand is aware of recent news reports regarding a request for censorship made to Line. However, Line has yet to be contacted by an official entity requesting such censorship.
“The privacy of Line users is our top priority. Once we have been officially contacted, we will perform our due diligence towards the related parties and consider an appropriate solution that does not conflict with our company’s global standards, or the laws of Thailand,” it said.
Paiboon Amonpinyokeat, a cyber-law specialist, said that the government could ask for cooperation from service providers on a “take-down notice” with a court order, but it depended on service providers whether to delete “inappropriate content” or not. The government could not ask service providers to unveil their users’ information as that would violate privacy.
Paiboon said the government could monitor online content as a part of crime investigation, but if it used social media monitoring software to collect data from online for other purposes, it might possibly be infringing personal privacy.
Four missions of the panel
Four missions of Social Media Reform Subcommittee:
1 Revise the Computer Crimes Act and the National Cyber Security Bill within a 6-8 month timeframe;
2 Ask for cooperation from three giant social media service providers, Google [YouTube], Facebook, and Line within three months, by March;
3 Adjust the organisation and function of Technology Crime Suppression Division to be more proactive in enforcing the Computer Crime Act;
4 Develop digital literacy in Thai society.