Internet censorship, insecurity in Thailand

Internet censorship, insecurity in Thailand

In Thailand, there is much insecurity as Internet is not yet so developed: broadband and 3G Internet access is still poor, security is lacking but the country is known for its pervasive censorship. Outside Bangkok and major cities, Internet access is extremely slow. Internet cafés are popular and common in Thailand, especially in major cities. They offer very accessible internet access at hourly rates, and usually serve snacks and drinks as well. Wi-fi access is available in most Thai hotels and big restaurants. Costs vary depending on the location, even though you can probably be able to connect to many for free. On the security aspect, Thailand ranks third on the list of the countries which are most infected with viruses or malware computer. Someone using the Web in Thailand has a 20% chance of finding malware, according to the research firm Sophos.

To fight against cybercrime, Thailand has adopted the 2007 Computer Crime Act, which purpose is mainly to punish computer and Internet crimes (such as fishing or hacking). However, this law also covers the control of information and censorship on the Internet and has strong effect on the freedom of speech and action on Internet.

Google has thus decided not to develop some of its products in Thailand such as Youtube, in order not to take risk, due to possible sanctions under Article 15 of the 2007 Act. Since the adoption of the Computer Crime Act, more than 80,000 sites have been censored by the Thai police.

This law was indeed created with the right aim to punish illegal activities on the Internet due to insecurity, such as data pornographic and pirated addresses that can harm a person, public security or terrorism-related activities.

But it has a strong impact on freedom of expression. It does extend criminal liability to the ISPs and legalize censorship. Between July 2007 and December 2011, 81,000 urls have been closed, whether for libel, criticism against the government or fraud. The application of the 2007 law is sometimes combined with the one of the law against lese-majesty, which can lead to more serious convictions and to penalties which can go of up to 15 years in prison. Some people have been arrested for simply written comments on the role of the monarchy in Thai politics. But the words of the defendants have never published, since it would go against the law.

Thailand ranks 136th among 180 countries in the 2016 world rankings regarding press freedom released by Reporters Without Borders.

The junta in Thailand still tightens laws controlling trade on the Internet, more troubling the defenders of freedom of communication. A draft amendment aims to heavily punish the mere possession of images or texts considered defamatory. Another law, already approved, allows police to intercept communications on the Internet.

First, this is a draft amendment to a law punishing computer crimes. This implies a penalty of three years in prison exporting images considered defamatory. This can be for example a cartoon making fun of the junta leader or a picture with a satirical comment.

But above all, another provision of the same amendment considers the mere possession of these defamatory images, whether genuine or altered, as a crime. If the person who received these images does not destroy them immediately, but stores them in her computer, she can be sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The National Assembly appointed by the military was in the process of discussion before the King died. It would also still harden punishing a sentence of five years in prison a person who in his archive either a computer image but a text considered libelous.

In Thailand, information is considered defamatory when it affects the reputation of a person, no matter whether information is true or not.

What is also worrisome, the police can now intercept communications on the Internet. This law has been already enforced. Previously, police had to obtain judicial authorization to intercept communications on the internet, be it emails or private exchanges on Facebook or other applications. It can now immediately intercept these exchanges without going through court.

This law has already led to some arrests. Last May, a woman was charged with the crime of having had answered “yes” to private message box on his Facebook. This message was criticizing the Thai royal family. This woman is now punishable of fifteen years of jail.

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