Facebook's Thailand Troubles

Facebook’s Thailand troubles started after a video seemingly showing Thailand’s 64-year old King Maha Vajiralongkorn dressed in a crop top while strolling through a shopping mall in Munich, Germany, last summer surfaced on the platform.

Thai authorities had ordered Facebook to take down the video of the “Playboy Prince” as he was called prior to his ascension to the throne last December. The Prince had become King after the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

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Facebook had given in to Thai authorities, acceding to their strict lese majeste (violating majesty, or insulting the ruler) laws. Facebook geo-blocked the clip in the Thailand region on Tuesday which should have been the end of Facebook’s Thailand troubles.

The government of Thailand, however, claims that Facebook has only removed 178 of the 309 posts that were deemed offensive and according to the Telegram, the country is threatening to sue Facebook.

Facebook's Thailand Troubles

Facebook has always prided itself on being a platform that promotes free sharing of information but it seems that the threat of a block in Thailand which is one of the most Facebook-active countries in Asia, was enough to force the company’s hand.

Despite the seeming existence of the posts which could not be removed, Facebook users in Thailand can still access their accounts now. Takorn Tantasith, Secretary General of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission of Thailand, told reporters after the Tuesday deadline that there would be no immediate measures to block Facebook.

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Thailand’s military-run government has ramped up online censorship, since seizing power in a 2014 coup, especially, concerning perceived insults to the monarchy.

Facebook’s Thailand troubles may be representative of bigger struggles

Last month, Thailand also banned its citizens from making any online contact with three vocal critics of the monarchy. The kingdom has been criticized for silencing critics by using the lese majeste law.

According to the government figures, Thailand’s criminal court has ordered nearly 7,000 “inappropriate” web pages be shut down since 2015. All this contravene the UN Human Human Rights Council’s declaration of access to the internet to be a human right in July 2016.

David Kaye, the UN’s rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression has encouraged companies to “push back” when states request a block on web pages.