Thailand filed a lawsuit in local courts against Facebook and Twitter, alleging that neither of the two major social networks complied with recently imposed court orders to block certain content on their platforms that is considered illegal under local law.
According to The Associated Press, the Minister of Economy and Digital Society, Buddhipongse Punnakanta, reported that the complaint had been brought by his ministry under Thailand’s Computer Crime Act. While that law had been used on several occasions to prosecute individual users and websites, it is the first time it has been used to sue large international platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
The conflict began in late August when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted that Facebook comply with Thai law and customs, and requested the removal of certain information and content that violates local customs and laws.
The groups and users reportedly contained illegal content related to online gambling, pornography, drugs, or anti-monarchy comments, a very sensitive issue due to its tradition in Thailand.
According to the local Bangkok Post, Facebook said at the time that it was forced to block access to the Royalist Marketplace group, after the government threatened legal action for failing to remove content deemed defamatory to the monarchy.
“Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves,” Facebook said in an official statement.
According to the statement, Facebook committed to protect and defend the rights of Internet users and “prepare to legally challenge this request.”
They also targeted the Thai government, saying that the pressure imposed on them had a negative impact on their ability to “invest reliably in Thailand, including maintaining our office, protecting our employees, and directly supporting businesses that depend on Facebook.
Facebook’s statements are paradoxical when we consider the number of complaints it received in the United States, precisely because it does not allow free expression of political sectors that are not in line with its declared leftist interests. Both the Trump administration and the conservative sectors are constantly censored or marked by their comments on social networks. The opposite happens with the Democrats or groups of the left.
The deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, Don Pramudwinai, assured that the government was prepared to use Thai law to correct and eliminate any publication that violates national laws.
Punnakanta, said that his ministry sent court orders in August to local representatives of Facebook and Twitter for the removal of illegal accounts and groups within 15 days.
Punnakanta reported that Facebook, following the request sent by the justice system, blocked access in Thailand to 215 of the 661 accounts that had been requested. Twitter did so with four of 69 accounts. But by not complying with all the requests, the Punnakanta ministry now decided to file another formal complaint with the justice system.