In response to online criticism of the royal family, the government of Thailand threatened (but then backed down on that threat) to ban Facebook in the country.
Last week, the nation’s government said they would ban the social media site if it didn’t stop users from accessing certain posts, including ones that violate “lese majeste” laws, or laws against speaking badly against the royal family. A deadline of 10 a.m. on May 16 was set for the pages to be blocked. Facebook didn’t censor the pages, but the site is still accessible.
Most notable in Thailand’s request was when they made a statement actually threatening to sue Facebook is photos of the king in a crop top weren’t removed.
Rather than risk public outcry over an all out block, it appears Thailand is instead pushing to censor specific pieces of content within the site.
When asked about the issue, Facebook stated: “When governments believe that something on the Internet violates their laws, they may contact companies like Facebook and ask us to restrict access to that content. When we receive such a request, it is scrutinized to determine if the specified content does indeed violate local laws. If we determine that it does, then we make it unavailable in the relevant country or territory and notify people who try to access it why it is restricted.”
A list of 309 pages were asked to be censored, and Facebook has removed nearly 180 of them. Facebook isn’t the only site being targeted though, as Google and YouTube deleted nearly 500 pages in response to recent government requests. And of course, fears of government or police surveillance on Facebook are nothing new.
Even though not all the pages are blocked, Thailand hasn’t enforced a ban on Facebook for now. They did temporarily ban the site for a week several years ago when the military took control of the country via a coup, but that was blamed on a technical glitch (even though reports show that action came at the request of the government).
Facebook has nearly 45 million monthly users in Thailand, making it the largest social network in the country.