THAI authorities have given Facebook until 10am local time next Tuesday to remove web pages it says violates local laws, failing which legal action will be taken.
According to news reports, by order of the Thai court, the social media giant needs to remove a total of 131 pages, some of which are said to contain posts critical of the monarchy.
“If even a single illicit page remains, we will immediately discuss what legal steps to take against Facebook Thailand,” The Guardian quoted Takorn Tantasith, secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, as saying.
Thailand’s strict lese-majeste law makes it illegal to insult any member of the royal family, with those convicted facing a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
The commission confirmed that of the 309 pages identified by Thai courts as necessary for removal, Facebook has already restricted access to 178 of them.
There remaining 131 pages, however, are still accessible.
According to the Bangkok Post, Facebook has not explained why this is so.
The daily said, however, that if the government were to take action against Facebook, it would first have to ensure that Facebook Thailand is a full branch office of the parent company Facebook Inc.
“If Facebook Thailand was registered as a separate entity, it cannot be sued since it has no power to control illegal [Facebook] content,” said Dhiraphol Suwanprateep, partner for information technology and communications at law firm, Baker & McKenzie Ltd, told the Bangkok Post.
Dhiraphol added that the government would also find it difficult to sue Thailand’s Internet Service Providers as they were not the ones who posted the offending content.
“It can only press charges against the ISPs as supporters if it has proof they have ignored [orders] to remove the illegal content,”the lawyer said.
The move to censor Facebook follows the Junta government’s recent ban on all online interactions with three prominent and outspoken overseas critics of the monarchy.
In early April, Thailand’s Digital Economy and Society Ministry threatened prosecution against those who engage in any form of online interaction with historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, journalist and author Andrew MacGregor Marshall, and former diplomat Pavin Chachavalpongpun.
The warning stated that anyone who follows, contacts or shares posts online with the three, be it “directly or indirectly”, would be prosecuted under the Computer Crimes Act.
“Members of the public are asked to refrain from following, contacting, spreading or engaging in any activity that results in spreading content and information of the persons mentioned in this announcement on the Internet system, social media; either directly or indirectly,”Khaosod English quoted the ministry’s statement.
The news outlet, however, reported that the order did not cite any legal basis.
Over 100 people have been charged with lese-majeste since Thailand’s military coup in 2014, seven of whom were detained just last month. Some of the recent arrests have been linked to social media posts.