Rahul Sachitanand
Aug 25, 2020

Facebook spars with Thai government over forced page blockage

The tech behemoth has threatened to sue the government over being forced to block a page critical of the country's royal family.

Facebook spars with Thai government over forced page blockage

Less than a fortnight after its Indian operations were dragged into the spotlight for links to India's right-wing government, Facebook has again found itself in trouble in Asia. This time, Thailand is the trouble spot, because of Royalist Marketplace, a page with over 1 million followers. The page, hosted by Japan-exiled dissident Pavin Chachavalpongpun, has earned the ire of the country's government and compelled Facebook to ban the page.

Facebook said it plans to fight the decision. Even though statements against the royal family can mean a 15-year jail term in Thailand, the social-media giant contends that the government's demand to take down the page is too harsh. "Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people's ability to express themselves," a spokesperson said. "We work to protect and defend the rights of all internet users and are preparing to legally challenge this request," the company told CNN.

A pro-democracy protester holds up the three-fingered salute during a rally in Bangkok on August 23. (Getty Images)

Facebook's views seem to align with dissenter Chachavalpongpun, who told Reuters the Thai government was "cooperating with the authoritarian regime to obstruct democracy and cultivating authoritarianism in Thailand." The country has been facing sustained unrest over the past few weeks, as people have protested against their government and increasingly shrill demands for royal family reforms. 

As things stand, neither the Thailand Government nor the Royal Family seems to be in any hurry to soft-pedal the issue. Under the country's law, defaming royal family members can result in a 15-year jail sentence—and the administration has shown it is unafraid of using this law on its people. The government has also identified 114 posts on social media to have taken down. 

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