Facebook Helps Thai Military Junta to Censor Critics of New King
Facebook is helping the Thai military junta cover up criticism of the nation’s new king, as part of its repressive system of censorship.
The social media company is blocking posts containing criticism or embarrassing information about Maha Vajiralongkorn, who came to power in December.
Under Thai law it is illegal to “defame, threaten, or insult” any member of the royal family, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Critics say that the network’s policy of always obeying local law is helping punish dissidents in Thailand, which has effectively been a military dictatorship since 2014.
It came to light when UK-based journalist Andrew Marshall raised the flag that one of his posts, claiming to show a “mistress” of the Thai king dancing in her under, was blocked for Thai users:
In a later post, Marshall confirmed the blocking, and attacked Thai authorities for attempting to “hide the truth” from their people.
Facebook keeps a record of the number of times it has complied with Thai censorship requests on an obscure corner of its website.
The latest available data is for the first half of 2016, when it recorded ten requests related to the Thai royals.
It is likely that data for the rest of 2016 will include more requests sparked in the wake of former king Bhumibol Adulyadej dying in October, and being replaced by his son.
Other media companies have taken a stand against Thai censorship, in contrast to Facebook’s compliant approach.
For example, in 2014 MailOnline had its whole site blocked as punishment for publishing footage of the king’s then-consort dancing in her underwear.
But rather than go quietly, the website publicised the censorship to the world, highlighted its poor human rights record and encouraged the British government to condemn Thailand’s military junta, which it did.