Facebook will challenge the Thai government’s legal demand to take down a group critical of the monarchy, Reuters reported. The company said it would do so after it had already complied with a government order to restrict Thai citizens’ access to a group called Royalists Marketplace. The group’s admin, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, said in a post following the block that it provided a “space for genuine discussion about the monarchy, a topic perceived as a taboo.” Lèse majesté, or insulting royalty, is illegal in Thailand. We have reached out to Facebook for comment.
Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society had ordered the block, the Bangkok Post reported. Per the Post, Facebook would have been liable for a fine of 200,000 baht, or ₹4.7 lakh, along with a daily non-compliance penalty of 5,000 baht (~₹11,000). The block was reportedly ordered on August 10, and Facebook implemented the block at the last possible moment, even as it said that it would challenge the request. The government has also filed a complaint against Chachavalpongpun, who lives in Tokyo, for creating the group.
Since the military junta took over Thailand in 2014, censorship of social media has been increasing. Even before the coup d’état, the Thai government arrested a Facebook user for insulting the royalty in 2010. The ban on the million-strong Royalists Marketplace group, though, is significant for the size of the community being targeted. Freedom House, a US-based and US government-funded NGO, considers Thailand’s internet “not free”, with a score of 35 on 100.