Thailand’s internet censors are shifting into overdrive to block more than 2,200 websites, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds before this weekend’s massive anti-government protests in Bangkok.
The Digital Economy and Society began notifying administrators of the pages on Monday to remove “illegal” content that supposedly breaches Thailand’s strict lese majeste, sedition and defamation laws within 15 days.
But Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta ordered staff to begin blocking the URLs now, as student-backed reform movements gather for their biggest rally yet on Saturday. So far, censors have green-screed 1,276 sites and pages have been blocked with another 1,024 due to be blocked in coming days.
Among the first content blocked were 661 Facebook pages, 289 YouTube channels and 69 Twitter accounts, according to the ministry.
The Royal Thai Police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division claimed the censorship completely adheres to Thai law, claiming the pages hosted “inappropriate content that could harm the country’s security” including that criticizing the monarchy.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha on Thursday night castigated the protestors for potentially creating a Covid-19 superspreader event, even though the country has had only two isolated local cases of the virus in more than three months.
It’s also notable that massive, nationwide street protests in the U.S. in recent month have not been linked to any uptick in coronavirus cases there, despite the virus’ near ubiquity in America.
Last month, Facebook blocked “Royalist Marketplace”, a group with more than 1 million members that had since mid-June doubled its membership as government-reform protests grew. Technology experts and social scientists said the government was basically pissing into the wind with its internet antics. Within a day of Marketplace being blocked, a new group popped up and gained a half-millon followers overnight.