"Find Us On Facebook" - then find us in jail: updates

Content unavailable in Thailand

On May 3, the Bangkok Post reported:

Details of lese majeste charges last week against two of the eight administrators who ran a Facebook page making fun of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has raised concern among netizens over the state of online privacy in Thailand.

In addition to sedition and computer crime charges, Harit Mahaton and Natthika Worathaiyawich were accused of insulting the monarchy based on personal messages in Facebook's chat function or standalone Messenger app.

An online stir

The Bangkok Post article continued:

Ms Natthika claimed she did not know Mr Harit well enough to chat with him, suggesting the evidence might have been fabricated.

Another explanation on how authorities got hold of the message screenshotsis their Facebook accounts might have been hacked. While there has been no evidence of hacking, it is no secret the Royal Thai Army bought products from Hacking Team Co, an Italian spyware vendor, in 2014

The last theory is Facebook agreed to hand over to authorities such information, an unlikely scenario given Facebook's privacy policy.

On May 4, Khaosod English reported: Facebookers Panic Over Fears Junta ‘Hacking’ Accounts

Caution is exactly what IT expert Wasan Liwlompaisan, co-editor of technology site blognone.com, recommends.

Wasan said he doesn’t believe Facebook is collaborating with the National Council for Peace and Order, the formal name of the coup makers who seized power in May 2014.

“Trust among users is paramount,” said Wasan, adding that even if Facebook had collaborated, it would not admit to it, however.... Any and all messages, he warned, are basically recorded and can be used against you.

Facebook censorship

On May 5, Khaosod English reported:

In the first apparent acknowledgement it is cooperating with Thai authorities in censoring content, Facebook has blocked its users in Thailand from accessing a page satirizing Thailand’s Royal Family, citing local laws...

“You're unable to view this content because local laws restrict our ability to show it,” the message reads when attempting to access the page of GuKult...

Facebook has long been considered by many Thais as the last haven of free speech in Thailand, where sensitive topics such as the monarchy are rarely discussed openly. Defaming the royal family is illegal.

Flight to alternative

In a May 8th article Khaosod English reported that "an increasing number of anti-junta netizens are setting up new accounts on a different social media platform" - minds.com. But others are skeptical, claiming that the smaller platform will make outreach more difficult, yet may be easier for junta to monitor.

Facebook denial

On May 10th, Human Rights Watch said Facebook claimed that "it has not provided account information or the content of any of its users to Thailand’s military government". Furthermore, according to a Khaosod English report, Facebook stated (through a PR firm):

We do not provide any government with direct access to people’s data. We apply a strict legal process to any government request for data or content restrictions and we list the requests we are getting in our Government Requests Report.

Of course, this statement is only meaningful if one accepts the proposition that Facebook would never deceive or mislead its customers. Victims of such faith-based reasoning should refer to the main article of this update, then ask: "When doing business in Thailand's environment of ubiquitous quid pro quo practices (aka rampant corruption), does Facebook seem like a company that would hold fast to the moral high ground and resist pressure from a military government to cooperate?". The easy road is to cooperate with the government, and then "manage" user perceptions. Managing user perception is clearly the purpose of Facebook's denials.