Thai officials have ordered Internet service providers to block access to content deemed undesirable to the government or monarchy, as well as report it to authorities. Where ISPs had to seek court approval previously for such actions, they can do so now under Thailand's national security and lèse-majesté laws.
The policy change was approved Monday at a meeting between telecommunications regulator National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, the police’s Special Branch and major Internet service providers, according to the Bangkok Post. In cases where the ISP is unsure whether content is objectionable, NBTC secretary general Takorn Tantasith said they may consult NBTC staff.
The censorship policy impacts Web pages and social media, including Twitter and Facebook. "We'd like to ask everyone to check carefully before posting or sharing anything on the Internet,” said Tantasith, who provided a Gmail address for people to report offensive content.
The move toward harsher censorship is seen as a response by the government toward foreign media companies for failing to comply with Thai requests for content removal, according to the Bangkok Post. Google’s transparency report indicated they received two requests from July to December 2013 from Thailand's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology to remove 298 YouTube videos that allegedly insulted the Thai royal family; Google did not comply because “the request was for global removals.” During that time period, Google received 11 requests for 322 items to be removed, of which 73 percent were related to government criticism.
Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan announced Saturday that he would use his “absolute power” to back Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s bid to shut down media critical of the government and the monarchy. Wongsuwan said Prayuth’s government wants to build reconciliation, but the media are hindering that process with their “critical articles,” according to the Bangkok Post.
Thailand has a long history of censorship. Its strict lèse majesté laws afford direct control over broadcast and print media, and now digital outlets. In the 2014 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Thailand came in 130 out of 180 countries listed. Since deposing the Yingluck Shinawatra government in May, the Prayuth government has filed 93 lèse majesté charges and shut down 392 websites, according to ZDNet.