THAILAND’s Internet regulators are rushing to secure official orders from the court to block the kingdom’s access to 131 “illicit” Facebook pages after the social media giant refused to act on its request until it received the legal documents.
According to Khaosod English, regulators admitted they had mistakenly assumed the orders were obtained when they threatened Facebook with criminal action last week if it failed to block the pages by 10am on Tuesday.
National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) secretary-general Takorn Tantasith, however, dismissed the slip-up as a minor error the authorities are now correcting.
“There was no misunderstanding, just a communication error,” he was quoted saying. “The ISPs got ahead of things by picking the links themselves from the ministry list.”
Facebook, said to be used daily by nearly half the Thai population, was still available in the kingdom after 10am on Tuesday despite threats access to the site would be blocked entirely should the 131 pages remain accessible.
The 131 pages were among the 309 previously identified by local authorities as containing posts in violation of the country’s strict lese majeste laws that punish perceived criticism of the monarchy.
Facebook had earlier only agreed to block access to 178 pages.
According to Takorn, Facebook refused to block the remaining 131 pages because it had not received the necessary court warrants compelling it to do so.
He said Facebook asked the Thai Internet Service Provider Association:
“Where are the warrants? By policy, Facebook blocks content from being accessed in places where it is deemed illegal, such as under Thailand’s anti-royal defamation law, if a formal request is backed with a legal court order.”
It was only then the association realised there were no such warrants for the 131 pages.
The association’s president Morakot Kuthamyothin said Facebook offered its assurance to act on the request once the orders have been obtained.
“It’s progress,” she told Khaosod English. “I saw good cooperation from Facebook. We work under universal standard, which is based on laws and court orders, not just the judgment of anyone.”
The daily said by Tuesday morning, the Digital and Social Economy Ministry had applied for orders for 34 of the 131 offending URLs. The orders have since been submitted to Facebook’s legal office in Thailand, which will translate them and send them to its headquarters in the US.
The so-called defamatory content in the 131 pages has not been made public.
The uproar started earlier this month when Facebook was asked to geo-block access to a video of a heavily-tattooed King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun strolling through a mall in Germany last June in a crop top, along with a scantily-clad woman said to be one of his mistresses.
Thailand’s strict lese majeste regulations make it illegal to insult any member of the royal family, with those convicted facing a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.